By Jeff Valin, National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, Volunteer
DANBURY, Conn. – Lightning can indeed strike twice. Just ask the McCarthys of Danbury. First, Cory was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010 at the very tender age of 18.
“It was worse finding out about Cory,” Cory’s mother, Dawn, explains, who, on her birthday in August 2013, was diagnosed with MS as well.
While self-pity would seem to be the obvious reaction, it wasn’t the McCarthy’s style. Instead, they chose to throw a "Happy MS" party to break the news to extended family.
“We joke a lot about it,” said Dawn, a resident of Danbury. “I think other people, if they don't know the situation or maybe don't know us as well, think we're being flippant and that we're not taking it seriously," says Dawn, "but why let it bring you down? We're always trying to think of ways to make more money for the walk.”
The 2014 Walk MS takes place the weekend of April 5th and 6th in 12 locations across Connecticut, with a goal of raising $1.3 million. More than 10,000 participants laced up in support at last year's Walk MS in Connecticut, many coming up with creative team names and themes to raise funds.
True to their tongue-in-cheek nature, the McCarthys dubbed their team - and adorn their t-shirts - with the name, “We're With Her.” The only exception, as one might imagine, is Cory, whose shirt simply reads “Her”- which the family opted to keep even after Dawn’s diagnosis.
The family’s creativity carried over into the fundraising arena as well when they went with an idea from Cory's sister, Chelsea.
“Cory has so many lesions in her brain that we decided to hold an auction,” explained Dawn. “A lesion auction, that is. People ‘bought’ lesions and named them. Now, that's hysterical to us!”
Of course, MS is a serious disease, with which more than 6,000 people in Connecticut live. 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.
“I rally all my friends,” said Chelsea, the only member of the McCarthy family not afflicted, who has undeniably been moved emotionally, and has taken up the cause. “I just invite everyone to the walk and I see who really is into it. I let them know that they can donate online, donate the day of the walk and get other people to sponsor them. I think I'm a really big part in that aspect because I've definitely helped raise a lot of money for our team, and it's fun.”
Every penny is crucial. After all, despite immense frustration that the watershed moments of pinpointing prevention, cause or cure have remained elusive, there is also cause for encouragement.
Funds raised through Connecticut Chapter events, such as Walk MS, 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.
“I think half the medicines on the market, especially the oral ones, are brand new, so it seems like everything is going a lot quicker than in the past,” noted Dawn. “Neither Cory nor I have any physically apparent symptoms, but that doesn’t mean our MS doesn’t affect us. Until there's a cure, Cory will need her disease-modifying therapy, even if her symptoms don't increase.”
And so, knowing the burden of MS firsthand, Dawn, Cory, and Chelsea soldier on. The “We're With Her” fundraising team will be quite visible at the Walk MS event in Danbury on Sunday, April 6th.
The 2014 Walk MS, presented by Travelers, will be held Saturday, April 5, in Madison and Westport, and Sunday, April 6, in Cheshire, Danbury, East Hartford, Enfield, Litchfield, Simsbury, Stamford, Waterford, West Hartford and West Haven.
Walk MS community partners include News 8, WUVN/WHTX Univision and WUTH Telefutura and Clear Channel Radio Connecticut, which includes The River 105.9, Country 92.5, KISS 95.7, ESPN 1410 AM, KC 101.3, 960 WELI, and ESPN 1300 AM, 95.9 The FOX, WCTY 97.7 and La Puertorriqueñisima 1120 AM.
For more information on the 2014 Walk MS, presented by Travelers, to donate to “We’re With Her” or to register for Walk MS, visit www.ctfightsMS.org.