Autocross benefit created in honor of late North Versailles woman gets on 'Fast Track to a Cure'
By Natalie Beneviat
Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 6:07 p.m.
Drivers who want to learn car control and fine-tune their driving skills can check out the sixth annual Barbara Lee's Fast Track to a Cure for Huntington's Disease autocross benefit, to be held Sunday at the North Park swimming pool parking lot on South Ridge Road in McCandless.
Anyone who wants to drive the automobile obstacle course can arrive at the parking lot from 8 to 9:30 a.m. to register, said event creator Morgan McLane of Fast Track Pittsburgh, the benefit organizing committee. Drivers will begin at approximately 10:30 a.m., he said.
Benefit organizers work with the North Hills Sports Car Club, or NHSCC, to conduct the event and set up a safe driving course. They also will also provide a fenced-off area for spectators and families. The cost to drive is $30, but NHSCC members can drive for $25.
“Autocross is one of the ultimate forms of how you learn car control. You get to drive like an absolute bandit legally and not get pulled over,” McLane said.
Proceeds from the event will go to the Huntington's Disease Society of America. McLane created the autocross event in honor of his aunt Barbara Lee Scott of North Versailles, who was diagnosed with Huntington's disease in 1999 and died from it in 2010.
McLane said Huntington's disease is a degenerative neurological disease that affects a person physically and mentally.
“There's all kinds of work going on searching for a cure (but) there's not one,” said McLane, 25, of Edgewood. “There's no treatment. No successful cure. It basically shuts the brain down.”
And it also might have been passed down genetically to his aunt's two daughters, as well as their children, so this cause is important to McLane and his mother, Pat, who is Scott's sister.
“It's kind of a family affair,” she said. “It's not a well-known disease, and they need to raise money for it.”
Pat McLane, 60, of Forest Hills said the disease is similar to Parkinson's disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, neurologically and physically. But it wasn't obvious what was wrong with her sister at first, as it just seemed as if her personality changed. Scott wasn't “thinking straight,” she said.
They thought the personality changes might have been related to “change-of-life” issues, given Scott's age. When even her handwriting became different, Pat McLane said, she knew then it might be something else, and Scott soon was diagnosed with Huntington's.
The physical symptoms became more severe.
“She started to fall. You lose your agility, basically. Your balances goes,” Pat McLane said.
Ultimately, Scott had to go to a nursing home.
A board member for the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Huntington's Disease Society of America, Pat McLane said this event can raise the funds to help people such as her sister and someday find a cure.
So far, they've raised almost $50,000, Morgan McLane said. If they are able to raise $12,000 this year, that will mean the event has averaged about $10,000 per year, he said.
Pat McLane said it is important to make the event enjoyable, as well as raise money.
Because Morgan McLane already was a member of the NHSCC, they decided to work with the group to create a fun benefit that also is family-friendly, he said.
They will be selling food provided by a local chef, and other items will be for sale. Along with providing activities for children, the event is set up near one of North Park's playgrounds.
Drivers who are not sure if they want to tackle the autocross course can try out the Fun Run race at the end for $1. They will ride on the course with an experienced driver, Morgan McLane said.
He said driving the course takes about 25 to 30 seconds, and it is set up for both experienced and beginning autocross drivers, who will use their own cars on the course. No sport-utility vehicles, pickups or vans may be used.
Helmets will be required, so drivers should bring their own, although the NHSCC will provide a few, Morgan McLane said.
Drivers must have their cars completely cleaned out to prevent loose items from getting out of the vehicles while they are on the course, he said.
Those organizing the event give cars quick safety inspections, which are required.
More information about the autocross event is available at www.fasttrackpgh.com.
Pat McLane said May is Huntington's Disease Awareness Month. Levin Furniture in Monroeville has turned the water in its outdoor fountain a deep blue this month to raise awareness, she said.
Representatives of the local chapter of the Huntington's Disease Society of America will be at the autocross event to answer questions about the disease, Pat McLane said.
“The more we get the word out, the better it is,” she said.
Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
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