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MS Champions 2016


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Read these inspiring stories about people living with MS in the Greater Delaware Valley:

Curt Gendler

Curt GendlerWhen both feet suddenly went numb, Curt Gendler knew something was wrong. In December of 2006, he was diagnosed with MS. He swore that he wouldn’t let the disease slow him down. And while he experiences fatigue, numbness, muscle stiffness and some cognitive issues, MS hasn’t stopped him.

Curt has dedicated himself to spreading awareness and raising money. He and his wife own a bakery in West Reading, PA, and they donate 10 percent of all coffee sales to the National MS Society. Curt has also taken advantage of the many services the Society provides.

When he was still working at a previous job, he sought advice from our employment specialist about disclosing his diagnosis. He also attends self-help groups and plays a big part in energizing his local group.

"One of the greatest things about the Society is how they raise awareness. People need to find out about the disease, and understand that we can still add value to society. But the biggest way the MS Society helps is by being there when we have questions. The information is key,” Curt says.

Denise Franklin

Denise FranklinSixteen years ago, Denise was sitting at her desk at work and felt like she was going to faint. It happened again while she was driving, so she went to the doctor where she was diagnosed with MS.

If you see Denise, you probably wouldn’t know she has MS. She experiences invisible symptoms like fatigue and memory issues, but she doesn’t let those symptoms stand in her way. Denise is the captain of her Walk MS team, F-Troop, and she is on the planning committee for her Walk MS site.

F-Troop, named after her, fundraises for nearly every National MS Society event in her area. She is also the leader of a self-help group and just signed up to be a District Activist Leader. As a District Activist Leader, Denise will drive change by fostering relationships between MS activists and elected officials.

“I started fundraising because I know where the money goes. I know that so many things wouldn’t be happening without the MS Society. And I’m not just talking about drugs getting approved. I’m talking about programs that help people and services that pay for doctor visits and more," Denise says.

Kelly Griffith

Kelly GriffithKelly was 38 years old when she was diagnosed with progressive MS. Six months later, she started using a wheelchair. She suspects she’s had MS since she was a teenager and remembers having a “pins and needles” sensation in her legs and hip from a young age.

Even though Kelly faces many challenges due to her MS, she still feels lucky. Her family has been an incredible source of strength. They participate in Walk MS every year, and her youngest daughter even sings the national anthem at the event. And when there was a problem that she and her family couldn’t address alone, they knew that the National MS Society could provide help.

“The MS Society has been a big advocate for me. They had a lift installed in the ceiling of my bedroom so I can get in and out of bed, which was a tremendous, wonderful gift. And they helped me when I needed a new wheelchair. So I like to give back when I can because the MS Society has been so good to me and my family,” Kelly says.

Lisa Houser

Lisa HouserThe left side of Lisa Houser’s body suddenly went numb 16 years ago. She was in and out of the hospital for months before finally being diagnosed with MS. Lisa had to stop working, which has been challenging, but it has given her the opportunity to volunteer with the National MS Society.

Whenever she can, Lisa volunteers at events such as Walk MSMuckFest® MS, and Bike MS. She also comes into the office to help staff prepare for events and to thank donors. She often brings her four children, who are all under 21, to volunteer. Over the years, Lisa has been a big asset to the Society. She says she continues to give back because she and her family get so much in return.

“The National MS Society helps me find out about new treatments and helps with my medicine and co-pays. The medicine is very expensive, and the MS Society can make connections to resources to help pay for it,” Lisa says.

Shay McCray

Shay McCrayWhen Shay McCray was diagnosed with optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve, it was the first sign that something was wrong. At the age of 24, she was diagnosed with MS. Three years later, Shay now eats better, works out as much as possible, and has come to appreciate life more. She still worries about what’s going to happen in the future, but with the help of her mom, Shay has taken her diagnosis and run with it…literally. She participates every year in MuckFest® MS, a mud and obstacle 5K run.

Shay, a physical therapist in Philadelphia, has also turned her diagnosis into a learning opportunity. Last year, she applied for a Know MS Scholarship from the National MS Society and was able to take the MS Certified Specialist Exam. Since then, she’s educated physical therapy students about MS using her personal experiences. 

“The resources are one thing, but the National MS Society gives me a lot of hope. It’s like I have this group of people who are on my team. Knowing the Society is there for me and being an advocate for the disease has just made me feel more positive about the diagnosis as a whole,” Shay says.

For more information about the Champions program as it relates to Bike MS, please visit the City to Shore and Bike to the Bay websites.

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