WALLINGFORD, Conn. – An avid hunter, Wallingford resident Aili McKeen has, for years, been steadying her bow and taking careful aim. This year, for the first time, McKeen will point her arrow in the direction of a cure, hoping for a bull’s eye.
“My daughter, Marika, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010 at the age of 26, after developing optic neuritis,” explained McKeen. “I got involved with the National MS Society right after that, and began organizing fundraisers to benefit the Connecticut Chapter.”
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like McKeen’s daughter, live with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. The cause is unknown and there is currently no cure. Symptoms can include numbness in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness, loss of mobility and, in some more severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
Quick to the draw, McKeen participated in her very first fundraising event in 2010, Women Gone Wild, hosted by Northwest Connecticut Sportsmen's Association. After the event raised more than $3,000 for the Connecticut Chapter, McKeen realized that she was on to something, and decided to step it up.
“The following year I organized the Anti-Lesion Legion walk team and started participating in the Cheshire Walk MS,” said McKeen. “Shortly after my daughter’s diagnosis, I learned that I had three more family members living with the disease, and that my sister’s Guillain-Barré syndrome and my own Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are also auto-immune diseases. Clearly, the cause was close to us all, so we knew we had to do what we could.”
Inspired to pick up a bow a few years ago after the nine-day shotgun season left her worn out, McKeen has developed quite a passion for archery, even starting a new job at Connecticut Archery, in Wallingford. Surrounded by the work she loves, she has decided to unite her passion for archery with her unrelenting battle against MS.
“This year, to bolster our fundraising totals for the 2014 Walk MS, I am organizing the 100 Arrow Challenge,” said McKeen, who now also teaches archery in addition to acting as the store’s office manager. “For one day, we will reserve a few of the shooting lanes for people who want to help us raise money for MS.”
The 100 Arrow Challenge will take place on Friday, May 9, from 1 to 8 p.m. atConnecticut Archery, in Wallingford. Participants can shoot 100 arrows at their own speed, pressure-free. If a participant has never used a bow and arrow before, McKeen will conduct a short lesson at the start of the event. The price to participate is $20.
Proceeds from the 100 Arrow Challenge will support the Anti-Lesion Legion Walk MS fundraising team. Funds raised through DIY events, such as the 100 Arrow Challenge, ensure ongoing scientific research to find a cure and provide for the continuation of vital programs and services offered by the chapter to Connecticut residents affected by MS.
“It's important for me to learn how to avoid the triggers for these diseases,” said McKeen. “And it's up to us to help the National MS Society raise money to support research that could one day lead to a cure for my daughter and the many others battling MS.”
The 100 Arrow Challenge, hosted by Aili McKeen, will take place Friday, May 9, from 1 to 8 p.m. at Connecticut Archery, in Wallingford. Admission is $20.
The 100 Arrow Challenge is an example of Do It Yourself Fundraising. For more information about multiple sclerosis, the many ways to help make a difference or DIY Fundraising, visit www.ctfightsMS.org.