HOUSTON – Astros relief pitcher Joe Smith and his wife, sports reporter Allie LaForce, are working together to find a cure for Huntington’s disease, a brain disorder with no current known cure. It affects more than 30,000 people in the United States.
The disease causes a deterioration in nerve cells, making it difficult to complete everyday tasks, such as talking, walking and eating.
This cause touches their hearts because Smith's mother, Lee, was diagnosed with this hereditary disease in 2012.
“First things I noticed with my mom was she couldn’t get something done slowly," said Smith. "If you would close the door, it would slam. Like, the motor movements, there’s no smoothness. It’s jerky. It’s getting a little tougher now. She’s starting, I just heard, now she’s going more toward milkshakes and I think it’s because she’s having trouble feeding herself,” said Smith about his mother, who now lives in a nursing home, and who moved him and his wife to create HelpCureHD Foundation.
Because Smith's mother and grandmother have the disease, the pitcher has a 50% chance of passing Huntington’s disease to his children.
The couple recently went through pre-implantation genetic diagnoses in vitro fertilization, or PDG-IVF, a process that screens embryos for Huntington’s Disease before implantation. This will allow the couple to eliminate the disease from Smith's genetic line.
But the couple now wants to help other at-risk-couples like themselves, who are concerned about passing on the gene to their unborn child.
“We are raising funds to help those families," said Smith. "There’s no reason that they should have to have a child with this disease."
The HelpCureHD Foundation is offering financial support for those with Huntington's Disease in their family who wish to undergo PGD-IVF.
“I know the beliefs of some people aren’t with this and that’s completely fine, but we just want options out there to get rid of this thing, because it’s nasty. Just watching people go through it and then, obviously, the cost affected with it. I mean, you are looking around $0,000 to $40,000 of straight cash to do one of these procedures. There’s not a lot of people that have that just laying around,” said Smith.
“It would be so emotionally devastating to know that you couldn’t help cure your child and your family line forever from a disease just because of finances. Every penny we raise, it’s going to pay for families to have this done,” said LaForce, who is inviting everyone who wants to get involved and support the cause to be part of the 2019 HelpCureHD Foundation luncheon on Thursday, Aug. 22.
"Last year, Joe’s teammates were so gracious to show up and I know this year they are planning on it, too. And I know we have a lot of Astros fans in the community, so it’s a cool opportunity to see them,” she said.
To buy tickets for the luncheon, click here.
To learn more about the foundation and Huntington’s disease, click here.
And to see Smith and LaForce’s complete interview, watch the video above.