Cheryl Russell - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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Cheryl Russell

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Cheryl Russell

By Nathan Solheim

People who participate in the National MS Society’s MuckFest MS events are doing more than getting mucky. They’re raising millions of dollars to help create a world free of multiple sclerosis — and building awareness of the disease in the process.              

Cheryl Russell, 35, is one of those people willing to get mucky for the cause. Diagnosed with MS in 2010, she participated in the Jacksonville, Fla., MuckFest MS in March, bringing together a team of 33 muckers and raising $6,806 — easily outdistancing her goal of $5,000. She also signed up her company, Excell Communications, to match donations from any Excell employees on her team. She then staged a couple of fundraising events at local establishments, including a session at a local brewery, which donated $1 for every drink sold during happy hour.

“We all do it for the fun,” Russell says. “But ultimately, we know this benefits people with MS. We recruited through all our friends and that’s how we’ve grown our team. People do want to be involved with it.”

Russell says she saw the importance of fundraising firsthand after she helped raise money to start a yoga program for people with MS in North Florida. She says the free class, taught at a local yoga studio, has been well received and she’s been inspired by the students’ determination and courage.  “Now, I have firsthand experience of how that money goes back into the community.”

Russell says that her MS symptoms are primarily related to vision, and have been well managed with her disease-modifying medication — so they didn’t interfere with her ability to navigate the Jacksonville muck. Though she describes herself as “pretty athletic,” she thinks almost anyone could complete the course — and have a blast doing so.

Her husband, Greg, also participated in the event, and her parents traveled from hundreds of miles away — to watch her get dirty, and to mind her son while mommy and daddy trudged through the sludge.

Her favorite obstacles? “Any of the ones where we got super-muddy and got to laugh at our teammates,” she says.

MuckFest MS will bring its fun in the mud to 18 cities and more than 30,000 participants across the nation this year. The event consists of a five-mile obstacle course in each city, incorporating local water features and natural terrain. Each course features up to 30 obstacles designed to muddy and mire the human body in multiple ways, including “The Spinner,” “Oh Crap?” and a giant “Swing Set.”

To learn more about how you can participate, visit MuckFestMS.com, “like” MuckFest on Facebook or follow us on Twitter under the handle @MuckFestMS. Be sure to check out videos of people mucking around at youtube.com/muckfestms.

Nathan Solheim is a Denver-based writer.

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