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Karen Starchok was a successful business owner and the beloved daughter of Michael and Connie Starchok. “Our daughter was very bright, and a very special person,” said her mother, Connie Starchok. After graduating from Johnstown High School in 1972, Karen attended the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and received her certification as an EEG technician. She worked at WVU as a technician, eventually opening her own business, Finishing Touches, a boutique women’s clothing store, and became a partner at Optical Express in Morgantown where she worked until her retirement.

Fifteen years ago, she was diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS), an extremely rare neurological disorder that most often causes progressive muscle stiffness (rigidity) and repeated episodes of painful muscle spasms. Individuals diagnosed with SPS can live between 6 to 28 years from the onset of symptoms before succumbing to the condition. Although she was struggling with her condition, Karen was determined to carry on and was physically able to attend her 50th high school reunion last year. She died in February, after a fall, caused by the syndrome.

While there is currently no cure for SPS, several treatments aim to manage symptoms or slow down the progression of the disorder. Only about one in a million people are diagnosed with the condition. SPS has received a lot of attention lately, as Celine Dion revealed last year that she had been diagnosed with the condition. Karen had hoped that Celine would be able to bring awareness to the disease in the same way Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s.

Karen’s parents, Mike and Connie Starchok created the Karen Starchok Memorial Scholarship Fund in her memory. “She studied hard and loved her high school. She thought it was very important for students to get an education. We believe she would be pleased to know that we opened this scholarship fund in her honor, to help someone who needs the money to further their education.” The fund will distribute a $500 scholarship to a student at Johnstown High School based on need and use of the award to further their education.To learn how you can create a memorial scholarship fund in memory of a loved one, please click here.                               

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