Jun 07, 2012
Karen E Butler
SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – Jill Hyde knows something most people don’t – moving isn’t a guarantee. Her best friend Shannon O’Donnell, Simsbury, was diagnosed in 1999 with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. Over time, O’Donnell has been robbed of more and more mobility. Today, she cannot run. Hyde can. And she does.
On Sunday, May 27, Hyde, who lives in South Windsor but who grew up in Granby, took on her very first marathon – the Boston Run to Remember, a half marathon (13.1 miles) to benefit community and kids programs offered by the Boston Police Runner’s Club. While Hyde considered the charity worthy enough, she wanted her efforts to make a difference locally.
“Although I’ve always been a jogger, I’d never pursued running,” said Hyde, who is the manager at White House Black Market in South Windsor. “I began to get increasingly serious about running after participating in the Manchester Road Race last Thanksgiving. I guess I caught the running bug. When I heard about the Boston Run to Remember, I decided to go for it. Shannon is such a big part of my life that I wanted to make the most out of the opportunity by helping to make a difference – especially in honor of Shannon.”
|Josh Oliver, South Windsor, gives his girlfriend, Jill Hyde, South Windsor, a hug after she completed the Boston Run to Remember in Boston, Mass., on May 27. Hyde, whose best friend, Shannon O’Donnell, Simsbury, lives with multiple sclerosis, asked friends, family and co-workers to donate to her per mile completed. To date, she has raised more $750 to benefit the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter.|
In conjunction with the marathon, Hyde formed a fundraiser of her own, asking friends, family and co-workers to pledge a certain amount of money for each mile she completed. In February she began vigorous training. She gradually worked her way up so that by April she was running three or four miles each time she stepped out. A few weeks before the marathon, she was running 13 miles in just about two hours. However, three weeks before the marathon, Hyde came down with pneumonia. She could barely move, let alone train. Hyde was out of commission for about two weeks.
“It was very discouraging,” said Hyde. “But as soon as I began to feel better, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn’t long before I was back on the road, running and also raising funds for MS.”
Hyde, 41, is a longtime supporter of the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter. Hyde’s aunt lived with multiple sclerosis. She met O’Donnell about 10 years ago at an MS support group her parents facilitated. As their friendship grew, so, too, did Hyde’s involvement in the fight against MS. She is a member on O’Donnell’s Walk MS fundraising team, the MS Kateers, and each November attends the chapter’s Women Against MS Luncheon, sitting at O’Donnell’s table. Hyde has even hosted fundraisers of her own at White House Black Market, a clothes boutique for women.
By May 27, Hyde was well enough to step up to the start line. Her pace was steady and consistent as she passed by the Seaport World Trade Center to the raucous cheers of spectators. As she headed into downtown Boston, history surrounded her. She passed Fanueill Hall and the Boston Common. She took in the grandeur of the Boston State House and the tranquility of the Charles River. All the while, Hyde’s thoughts kept going back to the finish line and exhilaration she would surely feel. The finish did not disappoint.
“As I got closer and closer, I could see Shannon, Josh and our friend Kevin Beck standing there cheering me on to victory,” said Hyde. “Throughout the years, Shannon has been such a source of inspiration to me. I felt tremendous honor that she was there to see me accomplish one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It felt so good to know I was raising funds that would help in Shannon’s fight against a disease that deprives her of so much. I couldn’t stop smiling all day.”
Hyde’s childhood friend and now her boyfriend, Josh Oliver, South Windsor, is a senior financial consultant and vice president for Webster Bank in Windsor and Avon. He pledged to give her $20 per mile if she ran the course and $10 per mile, if she at some point walked to the finish line. He handed over $260 the day of the marathon.
“I was just in awe of her,” said Oliver, who ran the five-mile race later that day. “She has a big heart. I am amazed that she was able to push past the effects of pneumonia to step up to the plate and run. I admire her dogged determination.”
Hyde completed the marathon in one hour and 51 seconds. She placed 1,072 out 5,500. To date, Hyde has raised $750 for MS. But she’s still accepting donations.
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Shannon O’Donnell, are affected by multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease affecting the central nervous system. The cause is unknown and, as a result, there is currently no cure for MS. Symptoms can include, among other things, numbness and tingling in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness, loss of mobility and, in some more severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
|(back to front): Josh Oliver, South Windsor; Jill Hyde, South Windsor; Shannon O’Donnell, Simsbury; and Kevin Beck, Washington, pose at the 2011 Greater Hartford MS Taste of Hope, held at The Society Room in downtown Hartford in February of that year. The couples support one another through thick and thin, including at the finish line of the May 27 Boston Run to Remember, where Hyde finished in her first half marathon. Hyde combined a fundraiser with her run and raised $750 for MS, a disease Shannon O’Donnell battles.|
Funds raised for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter, through efforts, such as Hyde’s run to benefit MS, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure, as well as to provide vital programs and services offered by the chapter to those in the state living with multiple sclerosis.
“I’m incredibly blessed to have a friend like Jill,” said O’Donnell. “She means so much to me. She is an inspiration to me and to everyone who knows her.”
To pledge to Hyde, please send checks, with Jill Hyde in the subject line, to the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, 659 Tower Road, First Floor, Hartford, CT, 06112, or call 860-913-2550 to pledge by credit card. To learn more about multiple sclerosis and the many ways to get involved, such as Do It Yourself Fundraising, please visit www.ctfightsMS.org.