Letter from the NW Chapter President

Dear Northwest Chapter community,

I would like to welcome everyone to the Northwest Chapter’s webpage, give a little of my background and interest in the HDSA, and then go on to talk a bit about my hopes for our chapter.

I am new to both the West Coast and to a leadership role in the HDSA. I grew up in Southern Illinois, which is where I first learned of Huntington’s Disease – in the 1960s. A good friend of mine in high school shared with me how her grandmother had just been diagnosed with it – and from then on I always read newspaper and journal articles on it whenever I ran across them. While I began college in Illinois, I eventually ended up transferring to the City College of New York, where I completed my BA. I then pursued a graduate degree in school psychology and worked for a number of years in New York and New Jersey as a school psychologist.

In the early to mid 1990s, I entered seminary and earned my M. Div. degree. I then worked for two small churches, one in NY and another in PA, as their pastor. My interest in Huntington’s Disease remained dormant until 2008, when I decided to go down with the HDSA to lobby in Washington, D.C. for the HD Parity Act. When I returned, I continued to work with several others on my congressman and my senators until they all became co-sponsors. When I retired from the ministry and decided to move to Arlington, I was asked if I would be interested in serving on the NW Chapter board as its advocacy chair, and I said “yes.” The following year, as our very capable board president resigned from the presidency because of work related pressures and time commitments, I was asked if I would consider becoming the new president, and I said “yes” once again.

Although I did not know it initially, after a year spent on our chapter’s board, I came to the conclusion that the sole reason for our chapter to exist is to help improve the lives of those individuals and families impacted by Huntington’s Disease. We work toward our mission both by holding educational events in our region to increase understanding and by raising money in our local communities. We use the money raised in several different ways – to contribute to the national HDSA office so they may 1) fund the Centers of Excellence around the nation and hopefully create more of them and 2) to support medical and scientific research on Huntington’s Disease to find effective treatments for its symptoms. Lastly, we use some of the donated money locally to provide and coordinate social work assistance, to help families find needed resources throughout our region, and to run support groups throughout out region as well.

 At the very least, I would love to see us raise around $80,000 to $100,000 a year. That sounds like an incredibly large amount of money for such a small group of people to raise, yet I believe it can be done. Other chapters do that through a variety of events, and we can too. I doubt if we will be able to raise that much in just one year, but that can certainly remain our goal for the future.

 Unfortunately, with all my years of college and graduate school, I never took a course entitled Fundraising 101. So I’m going to be learning right along with you. Mistakes will be made, our learning curve may be steep, but we can do it! The lives of our beloved family members and friends depend on it.

 I look forward to meeting each of you at our future events.

 With warm regards,
Jim Bridges President,
Northwest Chapter HDSA

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