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May 5, 2014

At walk, locals take steps to end MS

By Jessica Reynolds Staff writer
The Daily Star

---- — Chilly temperatures and wind didn’t stop area individuals from participating in the annual MS Walk on Sunday, and for individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis, neither did the disease.

“I am very lucky to be able to participate in events like (this),” said Kim Pearce-Schwed, who established the event nine years ago when she was diagnosed with MS. “I walk and run because there are others just like me who cannot, and it is my duty to represent them.” 

More than 250 adults and children gathered in Neahwa Park at 10 a.m. to raise money for the cause, walk with their teams and show support to friends and family with the disease. Some people showed up just to give a donation, Pearce-Schwed said.

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling degenerative disease of the central nervous system, according to a Walk MS media release. It interrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body. The disease affects more than 2.3 million people in the world. Each hour in the United States, someone else is diagnosed with MS. But, in Upstate New York, people are diagnosed twice as often, the release said. The cause is unknown.

Teresa Glavin, a WALK MS committee member, said organizers were worried that the chilly, windy weather would hinder people from coming out. But they were pleasantly surprised.

“It worked out perfectly,” Glavin said. “We had a great turnout.”

Unlike in other years, Glavin said, the walk route remained inside the boundaries of the park and did not venture into the city. The route was at least a mile long, she said.

Organizers won’t have an immediate tally for money raised, Glavin said. It will take a few days to calculate and for all donations to be submitted. The goal for the event was to raise $25,500. Funds will go toward local services and programs and research to find a cure for the disease.

Pearce-Schwed said finding a cause and a cure is especially important to her because it has affected two generations of her family.

“My mother has MS and I have MS,” Pearce Schwed said. “I cannot let this disease affect my children, and that’s really what has kept me motivated over the years.”

Glavin said there were many first-timers this year. One of these was Jerry Mackey, an athletics coach at Oneonta High School. Mackey, who has coached boy’s basketball and girl’s soccer at OHS for many years, was diagnosed with MS in February. 

More than 115 people made up “Team Mackey,” the largest team at the event, according to Glavin. Friends, family members and students were there to support Mackey, his wife and his four children, Mackey said. He called the experience “humbling” and “inspiring.”

“It was pretty amazing,” Mackey said. “I was able to pinpoint my energy level so I could join in the walk and see everyone. It was an uplifting event and nice for me mentally and physically.”

Mackey said he and his doctor are beginning to develop a plan for treatment and medicine going forward. He said it helps to know that he lives in a great community that will support him no matter what and to look to those who have gone before him and done well. It also helps to keep a positive outlook, Mackey said.

Until his recent diagnosis, the WALK MS event flew under Mackey’s radar. Now, it will become a part of his new normal, he said. He estimated that Team Mackey raised more than $3,000 for the cause.

“Hopefully we will be able to look back someday and try to explain to our grandchildren what MS used to be,” Mackey said. “But until then, events like this that raise money, awareness and support are so important. It was really neat.”