MIDDLETOWN, Conn.—The National MS Society’s annual MS Vacation Week, like any other camp, offers campers a chance to swim, fish and relax. For Middletown resident Carol Slack, however, visiting with friends she met during past vacations is the best by far.
“When I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010, I immediately went home to research what MS was all about,” recalled Slack. “Then I found the National MS Society and MS Vacation Week. I signed up with my husband, Clarence, so we could meet people who understood the disease. I never knew that I would find a second family.”
Slack is one of many Connecticut residents who look forward to MS Vacation Week year after year. This year, she was named the recipient of the Susan A. Hyams Memorial Scholarship. As a tribute to his wife, who succumbed to complications related to multiple sclerosis in 2002, the scholarship was established in 2003 byWest Hartford resident and Connecticut Children's Medical Center physician Jeffrey Hyams, M.D.
“I was very surprised to receive word that I had been chosen as the recipient of this year’s Hyams Memorial Scholarship,” shared Slack, who at 36 is the youngest camper to attend MS Vacation Week.
The scholarship in June will enable Slack and good friend C.J. Mulchey, of Bristol, to attend the weeklong respite at Easter Seals Camp Hemlocks Recreation Center, in Hebron. Camp Hemlocks is specially designed for full accessibility, and the facility provides a unique environment allowing for optimal opportunity and independence, no matter what a person’s level of ability may be.
“Carol is a beacon of light at Vacation Week,” said Amy Watkins, programs manager for the chapter. “She is enthusiastic and has cultivated lasting friendships with others at camp. When we heard that financially things were more difficult for her this year, we knew we had to step in.”
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Slack, live with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. Symptoms can include, among other things, numbness and tingling in the extremities, difficulties with vision and speech, extraordinary fatigue, stiffness in the limbs, and in extreme cases, complete paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted. There is no cure for MS.
“My favorite thing to do during vacation week is take part in the talent show,” shared Slack, who last year, performed a skit from the famous show, ‘I Love Lucy’. “I also love going out on the boat with my friends and fishing in the lake. It is a great way to relax and get away for a bit.”
Additional activities at MS Vacation Week include arts and crafts, boating, fishing, nature walks, archery, scavenger hunts, yoga, field games, campfire karaoke, a talent show and even a drive-in movie night. Educational presentations on symptom management, research and animal therapy will also be offered to the campers. Vacation Week will be held from Sunday, June 9, to Friday, June 14.
“MS Vacation Week is a rare opportunity for those living in advanced stages of MS to experience fun-filled camp activities not usually accessible or achievable because of the disabling effects of the disease,” said Lisa Gerrol, chapter president. “We are thankful to Dr. Hyams for his generous support, which annually funds camper fees, personal care assistance and transportation for clients to attend this vital program.”
For more information about MS Vacation Week or the Susan A. Hyams Memorial Fund, please contact Amy Watkins, programs manager at 860.913.2550, or firstname.lastname@example.org.