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By Sophie Heinemann (sheinemann@keloland.com)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Since the coronavirus pandemic started 5k fundraisers and awareness events have looked a little different. Many walks and races have been taking places virtually.

Debbie Stadley-Augustad is the president of Huntingon’s Disease Society of America's South Dakota chapter.

After her husband was diagnosed in 2006, she became passionate about raising awareness– and recently organized a virtual walk to do just that.

“The cool thing about having a virtual walk is you can do whatever you want to do so you can determine your own course. So some of our family members took the pavement or took their walk to the parks,” Stadley-Augustad said.

Posting photos, and their distance after completing the walk.

“My son and I and my dog, even for a little bit participated as well. We just took, I live outside of Canton and we took a walk, on our gravel roads out here,” Anderson-Smith said.

The rare disease has a broad impact on a person’s functional abilities, and currently has no cure– which is why raising awareness is so important.

Vanessa Anderson-Smith is a speech pathologist, who worked with HD patients in the past.

“It wasn’t, didn’t have as much awareness at the time as say, Alzheimers, you know, ALS, things like that. But once I started to dive into it more, I, you know, I was just, my heart was kind of compelled towards it,” Anderson-Smith said.

Her passion to raise awareness landed her on the board of directors for South Dakota’s HDSA chapter.

She says by participating in events like these you’re not just raising awareness, but creating a sense of togetherness– even during a time of social distancing.

“I think that so many people are feeling isolated right now, and unfortunately families with HD and people with HD, they can feel even more isolated,” Anderson-Smith said.

If you missed out on the virtual walk but would still like to help raise awareness, click here.