For Ron and Carol Schram, their daughters Laura Page and Alison Baldwin, their sons-in-law and their grandchildren, MS is truly a family affair.
“We have a family of 12. Two have MS, but all 12 of our lives are very affected by the disease,” Ron says. That’s why they all view themselves as ambassadors for MS research. “As a family we try to confront the disease by spreading information about research opportunities, the progress being made and the need for increased funding,” Ron says. “We’re very encouraged by the work of the NOW Campaign, along with the National MS Society’s recognition that we have to speed up the research to advance the knowledge base and to find new treatments.”
Ron has been on the board of trustees of the Society’s Greater New England chapter for many years, and is currently chair of the chapter’s donor development committee. He’s also a member of the NOW Campaign Cabinet. Alison is an active member of the chapter's Climb to the Top event committee. Laura's husband Eric was the event's largest fundraiser and Alison was the second largest. Carol and Laura frequently talk with people who have been newly diagnosed with MS, sharing their experiences, positive attitudes and hope for a cure.
I’m also a member of the Society’s Houston Leadership Council. I speak to people about research initiatives like the NOW Campaign. I’ll talk to anybody who will listen about MS research, whether it’s one person or 500. I’ve gone to high schools and corporations.
Carol was diagnosed with MS in 1983, followed by Laura 15 years later. Carol had few symptoms for the first 25 years after her diagnosis, but about five years ago her disease shifted to the secondary-progressive course. “She has serious neuropathy in her feet and legs that makes it difficult for her to walk,” Ron says. “And she has constant pain.” Laura’s disease has also transitioned from relapsing-remitting to secondary-progressive. “She takes care of her two daughters, ages 10 and 7, and when they’re in school, she’s doing therapy. It’s a full-time job to take care of herself,” Ron says.
Alison hasn’t been diagnosed with MS, but Ron says she’s apprehensive she or her four children might develop the disease. Laura is also concerned that her two children might develop the disease. “The impact on our family is very comprehensive,” he says. “Not just physically, but with a lot of emotional baggage as well.”
But you won’t see woeful faces if you meet a family member at one of the many fundraising events they attend every year. “Everybody going through life has challenges,” Ron says. “You can’t wallow in the ones you’re facing, and no one wants to trade for anyone else’s challenges anyway, so you recognize the best strategy for dealing with your challenges is an optimistic outlook.”
The family has seen countless times how sharing that positive attitude has not only helped other people with MS, but also encouraged potential donors to support MS research. “MS is a very complex disease, with complex terminology, so personal stories make it understandable for people,” Ron says. “A story about a family that’s struggling with the disease and how they’re coping with it, the attitude they bring and what they’re doing to advance the cause—people say, ‘That’s something I can feel part of and want to support.’”
Ron sees that positive spirit reflected in the NOW Campaign Cabinet. “The purpose of the cabinet is to energize people who have a passion for MS fundraising and to give them tools and messages to make their efforts more effective. The passion of the people in the cabinet is palpable. You can hear it in their voices—the excitement about the campaign’s progress,” he says. “And that just encourages our family to double our efforts to raise additional funds to make life better for all of us.”