Virginia Sara has been a volunteer with the National MS Society, Greater Illinois Chapter for five years, and she has touched hundreds, if not thousands, of lives in that time. As an MS Ambassador, she represents the Chapter at a number of events around Chicago, including health fairs and Do-It-Yourself fundraising activities. At these events, she gets a chance to speak first-hand with countless people living with multiple sclerosis.
“I want to tell people that you can live well with MS,” says Virginia. “It’s all about taking care of yourself and making healthy decisions.”
After being diagnosed with MS ten years ago, Virginia had trouble finding a mentor, someone in her peer group that could help her cope. When volunteering, she now has one clear goal in mind: be that mentor, a role model for the newly diagnosed.
“After my diagnosis I really wanted to talk to someone else in their early 20’s, but it was hard to find that other person,” says Virginia. “Now that I’ve experienced this disease myself, I want to help young people understand their diagnosis. It doesn’t mean that their life is over – it’s just a bump in the road.”
In addition to her normal duties, Virginia runs a quarterly conference call to keep the other Ambassadors up-to-date on current events and procedures. While much of her advice is designed for fellow Ambassadors and people living with MS, one of her most important suggestions can be followed by everyone.
“MS is sometimes a ‘hidden disease,’ and you may not see the symptoms,” says Virginia. “You can’t always know who is impacted – be sensitive and be kind to everyone.”