Out & About: Hartland Girl, 9, Raises Awareness, Funds for Alopecia Areata

  • Nine-year-old Brooke Walker, who was diagnosed with alopecia areata at age 7, is hosting a fun run to raise awareness about the disease on Saturday, June 16. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Calendar Editor
Monday, June 04, 2018

Hartland — Until Beth Horstmann’s daughter Brooke Walker was diagnosed more than two years ago with alopecia areata, she had never even heard of the condition.

“I knew nothing about this disease until she got it,” Horstmann said about the autoimmune disorder that causes people to lose all hair.

Since the diagnosis, Brooke — now age 9 and a fourth-grader at Hartland Elementary School — has endured more than 400 injections to try to stop it, as well as trying other treatments including creams and vitamins, and still lost more than 84 percent of her hair. Finally, the injections took and her hair began to grow back.

“It’s pretty tough,” said Brooke.

Through it all, Brooke, an avid runner who loves to play soccer, has remained strong and active. She’s also taken on a new role: that of an advocate.

Her work will be on full display on Saturday, June 16, at 9:30 a.m., during a 1-mile fun run at the Hartland Rec Center to raise awareness about the disease and raise funds for the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. There is a $5 entry fee. Participants can register ahead of time or at the event. So far $1,100 has been raised.

Brooke, along with help from Horstmann, came up with the idea for the event, which will also include refreshments and music.

“There is going to be so much to do there,” said Brooke. “It’s going to be really fun that you’re running for a very incredible cause.”

Raising awareness is particularly important to the Hartland family because of how little people seem to know about the disease.

“We want to break down the barriers,” Horstmann said.

There’s still much about alopecia areata that is unknown, including its causes. This adds an extra layer of anxiety: There is no guarantee that the treatment Brooke has responded to will continue to work.

“We just want to know more,” Brooke said.

When Brooke was diagnosed, Horstmann had been concerned about what kind of reaction she would get from her peers at Hartland Elementary School.

“It definitely wasn’t easy for the kids to see,” Horstmann said. “I worried for her.”

Horstmann went to the school to talk to the students about alopecia and what Brooke is going through. Her classmates rallied around her.

“There was no bullying. There was no pointing,” Horstmann said.

“When they first found out they were kind of shocked,” Brooke recalled. “Later on, they started to realize that I’m still the same person and it hasn’t changed me.”

That level of support has encouraged Brooke to expand her advocacy.

“It’s been amazing,” Horstmann said. “She’s just made an impact in the community as a whole.”

Editor’s note: For more information about the Fun Run, visit https://support.naaf.org/campaign/brookes-journey/c183216. For more information about Brooke’s journey with alopecia, visit https://youtu.be/nGDLT-ms5mU. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.