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Buffalo Designer Recognized for Creating Cooling Vest for Chronically Ill

September 3, 2013

Buffalo, NY - Van DiBernardo, Vice President of Design and Development at Coolture, a Buffalo-based company that designed the first lifestyle cooling vest aimed at improving physical endurance when overheated due to athletic performance or chronic illness, is being honored by the National MS Society Upstate New York Chapter. DiBernardo, who developed the vest after facing his own diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, will receive the Anne L Schuell Award (Inspirational Person On the Move) award at the Champions On the Move Luncheon on Friday, September 13, at the Buffalo Marriott.

DiBernardo once enjoyed a fulfilling career designing shoes for DKNY, traveling to production facilities in Italy, Spain, France, and Brazil, until he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – an often debilitating disease of the central nervous system for which there is no cure.

DiBernardo completed studies in Art and Design at Buffalo State College before receiving his degree in Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. His design career began at Unisa Shoes, where he worked with a team of designers in New York and Miami turning concepts into actual collections. At the company’s manufacturing facility in Spain, DiBernardo facilitated the production of prototype into final product. It was this experience that led DKNY to invite DiBernardo to join their design team. At the Donna Karan Company, DiBernardo designed and developed shoe collections for which he oversaw prototype development in Italy, Spain, France and Brazil.

It was during this period that DiBernardo began to unknowingly experience the side effects of MS: double vision, vertigo, nausea and balance issues. With world travel now difficult for DiBernardo, he remained working at the DKNY headquarters in New York City. In 2000, complications from MS repeatedly returned DiBernardo to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he would stay for month-long medical treatments. DiBernardo eventually returned to Buffalo, where his parents tended to his medical care and other needs. Several years later, DiBernardo became independent enough to live on his own. His first move was to start a support group to provide emotional and educational support for those with different types of chronic conditions. Today, he is active in the education and support of newly diagnosed MS patients who find him by word of mouth, whether referrals from other patients of MS and other chronic conditions, or from the healthcare professionals affiliated with the Jacobs Neurological Institute.

Until recently, DiBernardo moderated a monthly support group, “Chatter that Matters,” that he founded in 2004. This was the time he began designing and prototyping the first style-conscious cooling vest incorporating performance and athletic fabrics instead of neoprenes, canvas and Velcro. This was a big improvement on the industrial cooling vest he wore every summer to prevent heat injury. Four years later, DiBernardo and his partners launched Coolture and are actively selling cooling vests to folks with MS and other chronic conditions throughout the United States.

Tickets to the luncheon are $60. To reserve your seat, visit MSupstateny.org, or call Maria Batt at 716-634-2573, ext. 70501, or email Maria.Batt@nmss.org

What:    Champions On the Move Luncheon

Why:     To honor champions in the MS movement; those going above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of people with multiple sclerosis.

Where: Buffalo Marriott, 1340 Millersport Highway, Amherst, NY 14221

When:  September 13; 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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For more information, contact Susan Ashline, Communications Manager, 585-271-0805 (x70344), Susan.Ashline@nmss.org

About the Upstate New York Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society

The Upstate New York Chapter is nationally recognized as a leader in providing comprehensive service programs for more than 12,800 people with MS and their families in 50 counties. We are dedicated to mobilizing people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. The chapter has offices in Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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