Mar 27, 2013
Kylie Noell, Communications Intern
NEW LONDON, Conn.— After years of assisting her neighbor who suffered from multiple sclerosis, Barbara McKibben was not expecting the same diagnosis to befall her husband, Jim.
“I had spent a long time driving my neighbor to doctor’s appointments and helping her at home,” said Barbara, who inadvertently found herself in the role of caregiver to a neighbor who was being robbed of her mobility. “I was momentarily devastated when my husband was diagnosed with MS.”
About 15 years ago, Jim went temporarily blind due to what had been diagnosed as an optic nerve virus. Then a few years later he started limping. Doctors took a second look. After more testing, Jim was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“All I could think about was how badly my neighbor had been affected by MS,” recalled Barbara, who resides with Jim in Ledyard. “Besides that experience I didn’t know much about it.”
In an effort to learn more about MS, Barbara teamed up with the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, and started to participate in Walk MS with Jim’s sister. The pair participated in the walk for several years until Jim’s sister passed away in 1999. After the loss of his sister, Jim gathered up the strength to take her place.
“All I could do was press on,” said Jim, who today is known in his community as a Ledyard legend for his positive attitude and encouraging spirit. “I try to walk three miles a day just to keep moving.”
Over the past ten years, Jimmy’s Joggers, a name inspired by Jim’s ability to jog more easily than walk, has raised more than $21,000 for the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, through Walk MS. Throughout the years Barbara, Jim, their four children and other family members have been steady supporters of Walk MS even in the face of turbulent times.
In March of 2007, Jim was hospitalized due to complications unassociated with MS. With his life on the line, Jim was still able to raise $1,000 and walk half a mile at the New London Walk MS site just a month later.
“Jim is an encourager,” said Barbara. “For him, it’s about others who suffer with MS.”
Soon after Jim was back on his feet, Barbara found herself in the role of caregiver again. Consumed with the care of her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, Barbara could no longer participate in Walk MS but Jim kept “jogging.”
The “Ledyard Legend” receives hugs and kisses everywhere he goes and never has to ask for support.
For Barbara, learning about MS through the Society and others who have it has eased the fears she initially felt.
“Having the support of the National MS Society was amazing,” said Barbara. “The Society really helped us to understand MS and how it truly affects each person very differently.”
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Jim, live with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. Symptoms can include, among other things, numbness and tingling in the extremities, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness in the limbs, and in extreme cases, complete paralysis. There currently is no cure for multiple sclerosis. Funds raised at 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.
Jimmy’s Joggers will step out again with thousands of others for the 2013 Walk MS, presented by Travelers, in New London on Sunday, April 21.
The 2013 Walk MS, presented by Travelers, sites include: Cheshire at Cheshire High School, Clinton at Joel Elementary School, Danbury at Western Connecticut State University – Westside Campus, Enfield at JFK Middle School, Litchfield at the Litchfield Town Green, Manchester at Manchester Community College, New London at Mitchell College, Simsbury at Westminster School, Stamford at Commons Park at Harbor Point, West Hartford at the University of Connecticut – West Hartford Campus, West Haven at West Haven High School and Westport at Sherwood Island State Park.
Each walk site will feature 2.5- and 5-mile fully-accessible routes. Participants will return to a finish line party with entertainment, activities, and lunch, which is provided compliments of Subway restaurants and Coca-Cola.
“We don’t hold on to the days of his diagnosis,” said Barbara. “We choose to remember the good days.”
Jimmy’s Joggers, a walk team of immediate family members, may be small, but their support extends far beyond family.
“The camaraderie is so encouraging,” said Jim, who plans on participating in Walk MS for as long as he can.
For an eighth year, Darren Kramer, WTNH News 8 anchor, will return as grand marshal of Walk MS, leading from the Manchester site. News 8 meteorologist Gil Simmons will lead the charge from West Haven.
Media partners include WTNH News 8, WUVN / WHTX Univision, WUTH Telefutura and Clear Channel Radio Connecticut stations Kiss 95.7 FM, WPOP Fox Sports Radio 1410 AM, ESPN Radio 97.9 FM, The River 105.9 FM, Country 92.5 FM, 960 AM, 1300 AM and KC 101.3 FM. Other community partners include 95.9 FM THE FOX and 97.7 FM WCTY.
To learn more about the 2013 Walk MS, presented by Travelers, to donate to the cause or to register, please visit www.ctfightsms.org and click on the Walk MS tab.
Kylie Noell, of New Hartford, is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. Noell, who is conducting a public relations internship with the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, will graduate in May.