MS walk raises money to fight disease
DILLON – They walked to raise money, but for most of the hikers in Saturday’s annual Multiple Sclerosis Walk in Dillon, the cause had a personal side to it.
More than 300,000 Americans are estimated to have the neurological disease, and 200 are diagnosed with it each day. The numbers are estimates because the symptoms – numbness, balance problems or vision loss – often go undiagnosed. Curious correlations have been made with the disease, too: It affects women twice as often as men, people living at higher altitude more often than lower and many who are diagnosed with the disease live near the 40th parallel, which runs right through Colorado.
“I suppose I’m at a triple risk,” said Summit County Ambulance technician Lori Hodges, who volunteered to coordinate the event. “I could get it, so it’s a good thing to come out and support the effort.”
Hodges and 20 other volunteers helped register 150 walkers at Dillon’s Marina Park. The participants chose between 3- and 6-mile walks, for which they collected pledges. Some walked in teams representing families or businesses, and some came from the Front Range, Eagle and Lake counties to help raise money that funds research into the mysterious affliction.
Janet Schwaninger drove up from Aurora to meet her sister, Breckenridge resident Jill Boyle. Schwaninger said she did multiple sclerosis (MS) walks in Boulder the past three years, but came to Dillon to join her sister in supporting a friend diagnosed with MS.
“She’s had it for eight years,” Schwaninger said. “I really feel like I’m helping out. Every little bit of money raised counts, and we’re here to support her.”
Sufferers of MS appreciate the support, according to Teresa Nissen, database director for the Denver office of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The effects of the disease are unpredictable, and can come and go, she said. And because the sufferers feel symptoms that are invisible to others, people can doubt the seriousness of the illness.
“Employers might not want to believe someone has to take time off because of an attack because they look OK,” Nissen said. “A lot of people with MS keep it a secret for that reason, and because it’s not well understood.”
Maggie Kaufman understands; the Summit Middle School student has MS in the family. Her classmate Mandy Turner joined her Saturday for their fourth MS walk.
“We’re going to try to do the 6 miles,” Kaufman said. “This is what we do to help people with MS.”
The total dollar amount raised through pledges was not available by press time. Nissen said the average walker raises $150 in the event, and Dillon’s walk is one of 12 across Colorado, involving more than 6,000 walkers.
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