Debbie Christensen: Rolling over MS
“Everything is difficult when you can’t stand by yourself,” Debbie Christensen of Edmond, OK, said matter of factly. “But I laugh every chance I get. I think laughter is really important. I laugh all I can.”
Debbie has been living with MS since April of 1984. Although she uses a wheelchair fulltime and is dependent upon in-home care, she still lives in her own home and is expecting her first grandchild this summer. Every year she travels to the Tour of Champions, a national gathering of top fundraisers.
For Debbie, Walk MS is really Roll MS, but she’s participated since 1998. She has consistently been one of the top money raisers in Oklahoma. It helps that she comes from a big—a very big—family. Her mother is one of 19 children and she has about 200 cousins.
But it’s her year-round scheming that really makes the difference.
One ongoing project, for example, is selling candy bars at a large store. She stations her mom and mother-in-law at one door and sits with a friend at the other. “We made over $400 in one day in October. People don’t balk at all. They just reach in their wallet and buy a couple,” she reported, adding a bit incredulously that, “Some people give me $20 and don’t want any candy.”
Because she graduated from high school in 1979 and because a bunch of her classmates walk with her, her team is called the Debbie’s 79’ers. “I bought T-shirts with ‘Debbie’s 79’ers’ on them for the Walk,” Debbie said. “The only reason I got them was that one of my classmates found a reasonable guy to make them. He was charging $5.50. I said this is a fundraiser and I have MS. So he lowered the price to $4.25. And I said, hey, that’s still too high. I ended up paying $3.25.”
She also writes letters to some 300 people. “I write to everyone I know. And if they don’t respond, I might send a second letter. I can’t hold a pen so my mother and mother-in-law do a lot of my writing. A friend makes the copies of my letters, my church donates the postage, and my friends donate the envelopes. When I meet people, such as at the Tour of Champions, I politely ask for their address and then send them a letter. For the most part, you can tell if they’re open or not to giving. Some people will make a donation right on the spot. I know what I do is a drop in the bucket, but I work hard at it.”