Matthew Austin was surrounded by memories of his father and the support of a community at a fundraiser in his honor Saturday.
Matthew Austin was surrounded by memories of his father and the support of a community at a fundraiser in his honor Saturday.Matthew, 22, traveled from his home in California to spend the day at the Lock 29 tavern on East Main Street in Palmyra. The bar was a favorite haunt of his dad, the late Andy Austin, before he died suddenly 17 years ago -- when Matthew was just 4.
Andy died while battling Huntington’s disease, a genetic disorder that causes the gradual loss of muscle control, dementia and eventually death. Matthew recently learned he, too, is afflicted. Children of sufferers have a roughly 50 percent chance of inheriting the disease.
Saturday’s event at the Lock 29 was aimed at raising money to support Matthew and his uncle Adam Austin on a 1,500-mile bicycle trip to raise awareness about the disease.
They intend to film the journey for a documentary called “A Ride with Matt.” Adam is an accomplished filmmaker who has worked on several box-office hits like “Transformers” and “Spider-Man.”
Standing amid people he’d never met but who came to donate toward his cause, Matthew was overwhelmed Saturday.
“It’s great,” he said.
He heard story after story about his father’s unending talents, humor and positive impact on others’ lives. It was especially meaningful since Matthew’s own disjointed memories are of his father struggling with the depression and anger that are Huntington’s trademark.
Matthew said Saturday he felt “a lot closer” to Andy, and “it’s a good feeling.”
Adam, who flew from Los Angeles to attend, said the flood of memories of Andy and his mother and father, who’ve also passed away, was bittersweet. He was awed that so many turned out, including some friends from Palmyra-Macedon High School he hadn’t seen in decades.
“I think it’s the hometown generosity -- it’s so overwhelming,” he said, adding that a long-lost friend traveled from Maryland to attend, telling Adam, “‘I can’t imagine not coming.’”
All four of Andy Austin’s surviving siblings were in attendance: Adam, Aaron Austin, Annaliese Parker and Amy Schade. Schade made the long drive from her home in Tyngsboro, Mass., which will be a stop on Matthew’s bike journey. He, Adam and Annaliese’s 16-year-old son Jeremy, will depart from Palmyra in late June.
While musicians like Todd East, Paul Strowe, Buford and Aaron Austin performed inside the bar, family-friendly events were set up under tents out back.
Matthew’s many cousins manned booths with children’s activities and sold cold drinks, T-shirts and raffle tickets for everything from gift certificates to local eateries to a flat-screen television.
Lock 29 owner John Graham has known and respected the Austin family for years. He said he was honored to host the event.
“My family, wife and friends are always willing to help out a good cause,” he said.
How to help If you missed the fundraiser, you can still help support Matthew Austin and his uncle Adam Austin on their journey to raise awareness of Huntington’s disease. Donations can be made online at the site aridewithmatt.com or checks can be sent to the San Francisco Film Society, to the attention of the Finance Department, at 39 Mesa St., Suite 110, The Presidio, San Francisco, Ca., 94129. Checks must be payable to the San Francisco Film Society and should say “A Ride with Matt” in the subject line.