Mar 23, 2012
Sarah R. LaRocca, National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter Intern
CLINTON, Conn. – In Lawrence Spinnato’s eyes, his father, Larry, was always the embodiment of strength and masculinity.
“Growing up, my father was always the pillar of strength,” says Lawrence. “He’s a mechanic so his work was very physically demanding.”
But when Lawrence was eight years old, the Spinnato family received some devastating news. Larry had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“I had no idea what it meant at the time,” confesses Lawrence. “I just knew that my father slowly became less mobile and began experiencing more pain than ever before.”
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents live with multiple sclerosis, a disease affecting the central nervous system. The cause is unknown and there currently is no cure. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
Over the next few years, Larry’s MS began affecting his mobility and dexterity, so much so that he could no longer continue his work as a mechanic. He decided to go back to school to pursue a career in drug and alcohol counseling.
During this time, as Lawrence matured, he and his siblings found comfort in learning more information about their father’s illness. Lawrence gradually raised awareness about multiple sclerosis within his own circle of friends.
|Team Spinnato poses at last year's Walk MS in Clinton. Team Spinnato raised more than $6,000. The Travelers Walk MS, presented by North American Power, will be held Sunday, April 22, at 12 sites across Connecticut. To register or donate to Team Spinnato, visit ctfightsMS.org.|
“I would talk about it in school sometimes, or do my class projects on MS so that I could become more informed,” explains the Madison native.
This passion for raising awareness is something that Lawrence and his family still feel today. For the third year in a row, the Spinnatos will be participating in their local Walk MS event in Clinton to show support for their father. Last year “Team Spinnato” raised more than $6,000 in donations. The team hopes to surpass that number this year.
This year, Team Spinnato is 33 members strong and growing. The team looks forward to participating each year and takes pride in their solid history of success and amusement. In 2010, “Team Spinnato” took home the coveted title of “Team With the Most Spirit” in 2010 along with being acknowledged as one of the top fundraisers for two years running.
“My mother started the whole thing,” Lawrence jokes. “She’s the one to blame. But honestly though, it was my mother’s idea to walk in the first place. She got us rallied and ready to go. She’s the glue that holds our family together.”
Although his mother, Elizabeth, sparked their passion for Walk MS, it is their father Larry, who is the real reason why the Spinnatos keep coming back each year.
“He’s just this big guy in a scooter wearing our team apparel, and giving high-fives to everyone that crosses the finish line,” says Lawrence, referring to his father at the walk events. “It’s a special moment seeing him at the end of the road each year.”
However it usually doesn’t take Lawrence too long to complete the course and see his father greet him at the finish line. He is known to break off from his team, along with a couple of other teammates, to run the route instead to celebrate his father.
“A core group of my team will run the route instead of walking, just to go the extra mile,” explains Lawrence, who works as the social director of admissions at Choate Rosemary Hall. “I love hearing the DJ announce ‘Team Spinnato coming in early in first’ and the cheering of the crowd when we run by to finish.”
Lawrence may like the applause, but he’ll be the first to admit that his favorite part is meeting people and connecting with them because of a shared experience.
“It’s the best feeling to be able to relate to other people who have gone through similar struggles in their lives,” says Lawrence. “I think that’s the real value in participating in Walk MS.”
When asked if his father shares the same love for the event, Lawrence explains “Oh yeah! My father works as a counselor now, so he really enjoys communicating with others on the sidelines and working with people struggling emotionally with their MS. I think that’s his favorite part. He is 100 percent behind this cause.”
The Travelers Walk MS, presented by North American Power, will be held Sunday, April 22, at 12 sites across Connecticut. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the walk begins at 9 a.m. Participants can select from a 2.5-mile route or a 5-mile route. Everyone returns to fun-filled activities and lunch compliments of Subway and Coca-Cola.
Walk MS community partners include WTNH News 8/My TV 9 and Clear Channel Radio Connecticut, which includes The River 105.9, Country 92.5, KISS 95.7, ESPN 1410 AM, KC 101.3, 960 WELI and ESPN 1300 AM. Other community partners include WUVN Univision, 95.9 The FOX and WCTY Country Favorites 97.7.
To register for the 2012 Travelers Walk MS, presented by North American Power, or to donate to Team Spinnato, visit www.ctfightsMS.org.