A Heavenly Bargain Leads to an Earthly Goal: Participate in MS Events in 50 States by 2020
Sheri Paulson made a bargain with God after her MS diagnosis in 2001, and the way she sees it, she came out ahead on the deal.
Paulson and her husband Alan had a healthy girl, Amanda, but after four miscarriages and losing a baby to a birth defect, MS seemed like an evil plot to prevent her from being the mom she knew she could be for Amanda, then 11. The terms: Give me six good years with Amanda, and I’ll accept my fate.
She blew past that six-year mark and now considers herself on “bonus time.” The disease-modifying drugs had arrived at just the right moment, and while Paulson still experiences fatigue, numbness, tremors and spasticity, especially in the heat, she believes her prescription has helped her avoid going progressive like her friend Susie, who opted not to get into a trial.
Paulson now pushes her friend's wheelchair in Walk MS. “Susie tells me how proud she is of me, and I tell her that she’s the one who originally inspired me and that’s why I’m doing it,” said Paulson, of Galesburg, N.D. “It’s a little humbling for me because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special, I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
She’s referring to her pledge to participate in MS events in all 50 states by the year 2020. The idea percolated after Paulson began running half-marathons in 2005 — followed by a marathon, a triathlon and some cycling events — raising funds for the National MS Society at each stop. To date she has raised more than $30,000 and expects to have visited 14 states by the end of 2009.
She realized that if she paced herself to three or four events per year — be they Bike MS, Walk MS or speaking engagements — she could cover the entire country while preserving some vacation time to spend with Alan and Amanda. She assigned herself some accounting homework (as a credit analyst she knows her way around a spreadsheet) and calculated how to share her fundraising between the North Central States Chapter and the chapter hosting each event she participates in.
Regardless what type of event she’s at, Paulson spreads her message of living a full life and supporting the MS community. Several times already, she has hooked up with Bike MS teams who were perfectly sympathetic to the MS cause, but didn’t really know how MS affected people. Rather than push themselves to achieve a PR — personal record — they eased up a bit and crossed the finish line together with Paulson.
“I can guarantee you that the team members that I have ridden with have a whole new perspective of why they were riding,” she said. “It meant more to them to finish with me.”
In her banking position, Paulson lives the credit crunch, helping determine if companies can afford new equipment or real estate. So she knows these aren’t the easiest of times to be a charity fundraiser.
“I definitely understand the challenge that the Society is facing right now,” she said in May 2009. Thankfully for the entire MS community, Sheri Paulson thrives on challenges.
“I think I get more blessed by doing these events than I give to other people,” she said. “When you’re doing something from the bottom of your heart, you get so much more.”
To learn more about Sheri Paulson or to donate, visit sheri4ms.com.
Over the past few months Paulson has had vision problems with her left eye and facial nerve pain. She has taken a leave of absence from work, as it's been difficult for her to perform daily tasks, let alone her job.
These recent challenges withstanding, Paulson remains committed to her pledge to participate in MS events in 50 States by 2020, and she is on track to accomplish 15 MS events by the end of this year. Last week Paulson met with U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to discuss MS-related issues, and she'll be riding in the Idaho Chapter's Bike MS: Road, Sweat & Gears Ride on August 22nd and 23rd. Other events planned for 2009 include Bike MS: Weekend Ride sournd the Hills in South Dakota and a speaking engagement in California.