Walkers unite to combat MS | SummitDaily.com

Walkers unite to combat MS

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

DILLON -For the third consecutive year, Gold Hill resident Cheryl Tatro mobilized a small army of her family, friends and neighbors to take a stroll around the Dillon Reservoir as part of Saturday morning’s annual Summit County fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society.Tatro’s husband, Bill, died from complications of MS in 2003, and Tatro was left with a commitment to do what she could to help others affected by the chronic debilitating disease. Organizing Team Tatro, which included around 75 walkers this year, has become part of Tatro’s yearly routine.”It’s just a wonderful way for all of Bill’s family and friends to get together and keep his memory going as a tribute to him,” she said Saturday, as she greeted friend after friend at the end of the walk. “And to help so many locals who are affected by the disease.” Overall, about 200 walkers showed up for the Summit County event, which followed a six-mile course from the Dillon Marina along the lakeshore toward Summit Cove and back again, said Colorado walk manager Christy Strauser.The local walk is one of 12 held throughout the state during the month of May to raise money for the National MS Society’s Colorado chapter. Proceeds from the event are earmarked primarily for direct service programs to those with MS, such as clinics, self-help groups, financial assistance and information.”These walks are critical,” Strauser said. “The 12 walks around the state altogether raise just over $1 million.” Last year’s Summit County walkers were responsible for contributing about $25,000 to the state chapter, she added.

Despite the seriousness of the disease, the mood at Saturday’s event was festive. At the registration area, participants and volunteers ate pizza, listened to music and enjoyed the sunny morning. Event volunteer and Breckenridge resident Monica Wehner said pretty much everyone seemed in good moods when she gave them commemorative medals at the finish.”Some of them are amazed at their accomplishment,” she said.Dogs, strollers, and people of all ages participated. One group of six young men in matching blue T-shirts, calling themselves the “Team Tatro A Squad,” marched through the finish in close formation, laughing and chanting in military cadence: “We wear blue because we must, that is why you’ll eat our dust.”Gold Hill resident Gerry Huttrer’s high spirits were evident as he completed the six-mile walk.”We were attacked by lizards,” he said jokingly. “But overall, we had it easy.”Summit County resident Leslie King cheered on Saturday’s walkers as they finished. Diagnosed with MS in 1999, King, who is in her 40s and gets around with the help of a cane, said she was encouraged by the community effort.

“It means we’re raising funds so we’ll find a cure,” she said. “MS itself isn’t life threatening, it’s the symptoms that’ll kill you.”King has organized a monthly support group for local residents affected by the disease and said nearly 20 people participate regularly.According to Strauser, Colorado has one of the highest incidences of MS in the country. No research has yet been done specifically on Summit County, Tatro said, but it’s possible the High Country rate exceeds even the state average.”There’s something here that must trigger the disease,” she said.MS often attacks people in the prime of life, between the ages of 20 and 40, and Tatro’s husband was no exception. Diagnosed in his late 30s, Bill Tatro suffered from the disease for 15 years, the last 10 of which he was paralyzed from the neck down and required 24-hour care.Judging from the Team Tatro turnout, MS shortened Bill’s life, but did not decrease his influence on those who knew him.

Breckenridge residents Jonie King and Michelle Holmes both had smiles on their faces as they strode together towards the finish in their blue Team Tatro T-shirts.”I do it in memory of Billy and for all people who have MS,” King said.The two women’s T-shirts each bore the words, “Long may you run,” the title of a Neil Young song played at Bill’s memorial service.Despite his devastating disability, Cheryl emphasized, Bill was always fun to be around.”He kept his sense of humor,” she said. “He was a riot.”Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at hhamilton@summitdaily.com.

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