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Christina Michael

August 2017 Volunteer Hero of the Month

Christina Michael

Christina Michael was nominated by Stewart Ferry, Director of Public Policy, for her unfailing support of the MS Society.

Why She Volunteers

Christina says: For more than a decade, I have volunteered for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) with its Government Relations Committee and as a District Activist Leader (DAL). I am dedicated to helping find a cure for MS because of its impact on me, my family, and many others touched by the disease. Since my MS diagnosis over twenty years ago, I have had access to cutting-edge disease modifying drugs (DMD), therapies, and care to halt disease progression. Such care coupled with the support provided by the NMSS has allowed me to achieve optimal health and wellness notwithstanding MS.

Unfortunately, access to affordable medication, care, and support is threatened considering today’s dynamic healthcare legislation impacting all with preexisting conditions such as MS. Many with chronic conditions will lose access to affordable care and medications critical to maintaining health and wellness. The anticipated negative impact on healthcare for MS patients has increased the need for volunteers like me to continue fighting to find a cure for MS. I am passionate about my contributions as an MS advocate and am optimistic that soon we will be afforded the gift of a cure for MS.

April 2017 Volunteer Hero of the Month
Josie Chapman

Why She Volunteers

Even though I know people who are fighting MS, it was my good friend Beth that originally got me involved with local MS events. I have always been a fundraising event person, both as a volunteer and a participant, so it was easy to say yes when asked to volunteer. What keeps me coming back are the incredible people; the staff are amazing, the other volunteers (especially school groups), and of course the participants, are all so energetic and genuine. It is events like Waves to Wine, Walk MS and MuckFest MS that raise much needed money and awareness to MS. I feel energized after each long event day!

March 2017 Volunteer Hero of the Month

John Hart

Why He Volunteers

I volunteer to raise money for research.  As someone with MS, I try to participate wherever I can to raise money for a cure for MS. Also, Waves to Wine is a fun event to attend!

February 2017 Volunteer Hero of the Month

Morgan Faulkner

Why She Volunteers

WI volunteer for the National MS Society for a few reasons. The most important reason is to assist this amazing organization to raise much needed funds for continued research to hopefully end this disease forever. My aunt has had MS for the past 20 years and without the work that the NMSS has done, she wouldn't be thriving, hiking, Spin aficionado, and traveler that she is. 

I also volunteer because I really enjoy staffing events. It is a great feeling to know that I helped to put on the best event for the participants so that they leave with having had the best experience possible. 

January 2017 Volunteer Hero of the Month

Joel Stahl and Mauritz Grobbelaar

Why They Volunteer

We like volunteering for the National MS Society because of the employees and volunteers who welcome us with radiant smiles and lots of heart. This organization embodies the meaning of passion and dedication! We look forward to this event because of the great people who show up to exercise their values of compassion and humanity. The Muckfest participants are true heroes! 

December 2016 Volunteer Hero of the Month

Eric McHenry

Why He Volunteers

This was the third consecutive year I’ve volunteered with the National MS Society in support of your organizations' quest to address the needs of those affected by MS.  Every year I am increasingly impressed by the support and services provided by the NMSS, coupled with the quality and professionalism of your staff. As a volunteer, it’s important to me to feel the time I give contributes to something important and valued; I don’t have the professional or medical skills for direct assistance to those affected by MS, but I can give my time, energy and enthusiasm during your special events. On the personal side, our family has recently been touched by a significant illness.  Not MS, but a disease equally debilitating.  It’s through that lens I see the NMSS and the impact you have on our community.  Kudos to the work and thanks again for all you do. 

November 2016 Volunteer Heroes of the Month

Carmen and Dean Lauerman

Why They Volunteer

We volunteer because we CAN volunteer.  So many people living with MS have challenges which make it difficult to volunteer so we do it for them.  It is important to us because since Dean was diagnosed in 2003, there have been many advances in the fight to cure MS.  Those advances have greatly improved his quality of life.  When we volunteer at events that raise money for MS research such as Waves to Wine or MS Walks, we feel like we are just “giving back” to help those with MS have a better quality of life.  There is no end to our gratitude to everyone who has ever worked, volunteered, or researched to find a cure for MS.

October 2016 Volunteer Hero of the Month

RC Banjanin

Why He Volunteers

Volunteering for the NMSS is the best way for me to give back to the MS community. When I was diagnosed, I knew absolutely nothing about MS except that Richard Pryor and Teri Garr had it. That first week was terrifying-I did find out rather quickly that we all know someone who has it or has been affected by someone who has it. I was amazed at how rapidly my support group grew and the wealth of knowledge made available by the NMSS. I was lucky that once I was on a treatment I was able to go back to work. I am able to help others through my construction company-building ramps and installing handrails for those in need. The Monterey MS Walk is the highlight of the year-where I am able to socialize with the people who have helped me and those I have helped. If I can just help one person then I have made a difference.

August/September 2016 Volunteer of the Month
Terri Lawson, Hero

Why She Volunteers

I was diagnosed with MS in 1992 and immediately registered to receive information
from the NMSS. My family and I first volunteered with the MS Society in 1994.
My husband Don, and my daughter Lauren and I hosted a rest stop at the Modesto MS Walk.
For me, volunteering with the MS Society has many benefits:
  • Volunteering allows me the opportunity to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships.
  • I enjoy bringing MS awareness to our community, friends and family.
  • Staying connected to others living with MS helps me gain a better understanding of a wide range of MS challenges, introduces me to new ideas regarding self-care and symptom management, and encourages me to remember that "Together We Are Stronger".
  • Being connected with the MS Society allows me to stay up to date with MS news, including; current events and MS programs, treatment options, government relations and legislation, and advances in MS research.
  • Volunteering with the MS Society makes me happy!

July 2016 Volunter of the Month
Susanna Pennes, Hero

Why She Volunteers

It has been fun volunteering for Walk MS for the past two years! I have enjoyed working on a committee with other dedicated volunteers to put on such a great event. Greeting and walking with other participants makes the time and work involved extremely rewarding. There is an extreme feeling of community, enthusiasm, and empowerment when the teams and participants gather to raise funds for the national MS Society, research, and programs for those affected by MS.

June 2016 Volunteer of the Month

Jessica Myers, Hero

Why she volunteers

I volunteer because of my mom who passed away three years ago after fighting MS for 37 years. She was my best friend, my shoulder to lean on, my strength and one of the biggest reasons I do what I do on a daily basis. I grew up with my mom helping others with MS, wanting to spread knowledge of MS to anyone who would listen, so I want to carry on the fire that she had and continue to do anything that will help raise awareness.

My mom's closest cousin, Dara, originally told me about Walk MS and I was instantly hooked. I have gotten my dance team, the Cowtown Cowgirls, involved in doing anything and everything to benefit the walks - from fundraising, to giving out information and volunteering from start to finish at the walk this year. My mom's passion has fueled my fire to keep going, to keep raising awareness and to keep smiling because you never know who could use a friendly smile.

May 2016 Volunteer of the Month
James Stewart, Hero
Why He Volunteers

I find that, although I’m living with MS, I still have abilities that allow me to serve people like me who are affected. Bringing awareness to others of what it means to live with MS is very important, as is doing what we can to find a cause and a cure. Awareness through advocacy and funding critical research brings us closer to a cure.

The National MS Society’s mission is aligned with my interests in this regard, and it’s my pleasure to help out when and where I can. It’s been a great joy to be able to participate in helping to share knowledge about what living with MS really means. Living with MS presents multiple challenges, but all of us working together can make a positive difference and someday, we’ll discover how to prevent others from being afflicted and make it a lot easier for those that are.

April 2016 Volunteer of the Month

Sandra Garduna, Hero

Why She Volunteers

My name is Sandra and I go to ICA. ICA has a corporate work study program which means we all have a job. I was 
assigned to work at the National MS Society.  The National MS Society has not only taught me work skills, but it also taught me how to help people living with MS. Being part of the National MS Society is an honor because you get to know that you are making a difference in people life living with MS. 

March 2016 Volunteer of the Month
Yarely Hernandez, Hero

Why She Volunteers

I attend an all-girls Catholic High School called ICA it stands for Immaculate Conception Academy. Our school has a program called the Cooperate Work Study Program, which means all the girls at our school work. I was assigned to work here at the National MS Society, and after working here for some time I have really enjoyed it. I don’t come to help out because I am being forced to but because coming here and helping out even from the smallest of tasks to pretty big ones means I’m helping out the community. It is important to me to help out as much as possible because I enjoy helping others and my family has always said, when someone is stuck in a hole extend your arm and help them out because you’ll never know when you might need a hand. 

February 2016 Volunteer of the Month
Tracy Claflin, Hero 

Tracy has been a self-help group co-leader and committee member since 2012 in Chico, CA. 

Why She Volunteers

I volunteer because when I was first diagnosed in 2004 I was frightened, angry, and completely overwhelmed. I wished I had someone with MS to talk to who could understand what I was going through, because it is scary to be diagnosed with an incurable, progressive disease. Now, as a co-leader of our local support group, I can ensure that someone is always available to talk and offer support. I also volunteer to help further progress for a cure, which will hopefully come along in my lifetime. Hope is on the horizon – one step at a time!

January 2016 Volunteer of the Month
Mary Moore, Hero

Mary has been a community service investigator and peer counselor for four years. With the help of paratransit services, Mary travels many miles each week to volunteer with the National MS Society, ensuring that people living with MS get access to the resources they need. 

Why She Volunteers

“It is a joy to help the MS community and continue applying my skills and abilities towards a good cause. I feel so appreciated for my volunteer work. Many years ago, I found a good referral by calling the MS Society so I know how important these referrals are for people living with MS.”

November/December 2015 Hero of the Month
Mario Barron, Hero 

Mario has been volunteering with the MS Society since March of 2015. He started volunteering because of his connection to Beth Koeneke via working with her at ALC.

Why he volunteers:

I volunteer for the free me a volunteer/event t-shirt is a badge of honor that I have earned. After the event is over, I wear them to remind me of the work I did to earn it; work that takes me outside of my comfort zone and challenges me to do things that I would normally never do alongside an amazing group of people for a good cause. In fact, I recently wore my Muckfest t-shirt to my local Starbucks where I met a follow Mucker and we were instantly connected. We shared our stories about how amazing the event was and agreed that it was the best we had ever done involving mud...GO FIGURE!  I encourage everyone to volunteer and to collect and wear the t-shirts.



September/October 2015 Hero of the Month
Yvette Brisco, Hero

Yvette has volunteered with the National MS Society for 1.5 years and continues to go above and beyond for the cause. She even partnered with the mixed martial arts (MMA) community to run an event she created called Fight for a Cure.  

Why she volunteers:

"I strongly believe that we all need to give back in some way and that small efforts can make a big difference! Before being diagnosed with MS, I had other causes that I volunteered for and although I still support those causes, I have focused most of my efforts on raising funds for MS research and awareness. I'm fighting for a cure and getting as many others as possible to do the same."

July/August 2015 Hero of the Month
Ellen Valkevich, Hero

Why she volunteers:

"I volunteer for the MS Society because my dad had MS, and I want to do whatever part I can in making lives a little brighter for people with MS and their families.  I love being around the office and seeing how many people are working towards this same cause.  No matter how big or small the contribution, I enjoy being part of a greater community of passionate and caring people.  As a scientist, I also hope to contribute to MS research in understanding the causes of MS and finding treatments.  Thank you to the MS Society, fellow volunteers, and fundraisers for all that you do, and I love being a part of it!"

June 2015 Hero of the Month

Ralph Cyr, Hero

Why he volunteers: 

He has been a volunteer peer counselor since 2003, a weekly "phone buddy" since 2004, and has been deeply involved in advocacy. Ralph was involved in the passage of SB426 (CA Sharps) and served as the National MS Society representative of SB426.

Ralph has also created an elaborate advocacy spreadsheet for all California Legislators that is now a model nationally. It conaints all legislators, District Activist Leaders, and grasstop connections and key committees. This spreadsheet has been an invaluable tool to help the National MS Society increase advocacy efforts to make effective change.

"As a member of the Northern California chapter I've associated with hundreds of really great people and it gives me great pleasure to give something back to the chapter and the MS Society."

April/May 2015 Hero of the Month

Susanna Pennes, Hero

Why she volunteers

Susanna has been volunteering for one year and was a champion Walk MS Committee Member for the Santa Rosa walk. She secured numerous in-kind donations and sponsors and was up to helping with any task.

"I volunteer for the MS Society to bring awareness to a cause that affects many people, but is not well known and supported.  I have been fortunate to have a disease course that is relatively mild thus far.  However I know how scary it is to receive the diagnosis and to live with the unpredictability of this disease.  I am thankful for the information and resources  I have received over the years through the MS Society.  It is important to me to do what I can to help others experience this support and, most of all, hope."

February/March 2015 Hero of the Month​

Montazcha Tatum, Hero

Montazcha Tatum has been volunteering at our San Francisco office for the last two years as part of her school program. She is a dedicated, hard worker who has been a terrific help to the National MS Society.

"I volunteer because I currently go to ICA and we have a program for young women to volunteer. I chose to volunteer here for a second year in a row because I like this nonprofit organization. The people are very friendly and strive to help people who have MS. It is important to me because I like helping people and seeing people benefit from what I do. I want to help people because if I can do something to make people happy, why not do it? I am really grateful for this opportunity and I love the MS Society."

January 2015 Hero of the Month
April Culley, Hero

April has been volunteering at the Sacramento office since 2011, recruiting volunteers and others to join in the fight against MS.

"Volunteering has always been something encouraged and fostered by my family. When I was diagnosed in 2010 after my mother finally got her official diagnosis a few years before, all my random volunteering found a new focus. The experience, both gained and leveraged, from helping out at events is only part of why volunteering with the MS Society is an essential part of my life. Helping to build the awareness and share my story not only as someone who plays the patient role, but also growing up my entire life as a loved one, has given my MS a purpose. It’s not just something that I sit back and passively let happen, I am participating in the best way I know to find a cure and to live my best life in the meantime."

December 2014 Hero of the Month

Alex Taylor and T. Taylor, Heroes

Alexis Taylor and T. Taylor have volunteered for the MS Society for several years, recruiting and managing the trucks and trash/recycling on the Waves to Wine event. They are devoted parents to their 3 as well as amazing resources of energy and support to the MS Society. They are devoted to finding a cure for MS.

"I volunteer because this world needs more awareness of diseases like MS. My grandmother passed away 10 years ago from Lupus complications, and I feel this is a great way to honor her. I love to help others, and I have found a great community of people to do it with." -- Alexis

"I volunteer because I want to make a difference for my children and family with the hopes that diseases like MS will not burden them, because a world where MS can be beat, or where it does not exist, would be the world I want for my girls and their future generations." --T.

November 2014 Hero of the Month

Bill Hertan, Hero

Bill has been a tremendous help to the MS Society, working as our go to Medical Lead for Waves to Wine and the MS Walks. He helps us organize our medical supplies for our events and is also a wealth of information for  resources to gather volunteers for other tasks.

"I started out on the Moto safety crew for waves to wine for 2 years. The staff found out that I was a first aid instructor while volunteering at Walk MS  and asked me to do first aid at rest stops the next year. That lead to being asked if I would be the volunteer lead medical for the Waves to Wine ride, which I have been managing the last 2 years. Through my volunteering, I have found many great volunteers that come back year after year. I've been involved with MS for 5 years now, and am looking forward to many more.I volunteer because I like the events and helping others. I have two friends with MS, Anita Funicello, who died from MS complications, and Eric in Europe.I've seen what MS does to people, and I want to help find a cure."

October 2014 Hero of the Month

Francesca Smith, Hero

Francesca has been a very committed volunteer for over five years, managing volunteer teams at  Bike MS, Walk MS, and now MuckFest. She is always the first to arrive and the last to leave any event she volunteers at, and goes above and beyond the call of duty when serving on the Santa Rosa Walk MS Committee.

"As a long-time volunteer with the Chapter, I was excited to volunteer at our first MS Muck Fest at Solano County Fairgrounds in mid-October.  With only a vague idea of what a "mud run" was all about, I showed up in white sneakers (what was I thinking?) Turns out it was the most energizing event you can imagine!  What a great way to have fun, fundraise and support the MS community.   As Festival Captain, I worked with our amazing Chapter staffers and lots of first-time volunteers - and they've all promised to come back next year and get muddy.  And muddy it was!  Children enjoyed a special play area full of mud puddles (and giggles) while teams of families, friends and those living with MS walked, ran and slogged through the mud-filled course. After the run, there was time for a shower and a bite to eat.  Participants lingered in the festival area and just enjoyed the camaraderie.  And the teams really amped up the positive energy with costumes, hats, tutus and face paint.  As much as I love volunteering for Bike MS and Walk MS - now I'm in love with Muck Fest and can't wait for next year!  Please think about a way that your energy can benefit the MS community to provide programs, research and support for those living with MS and their families. There are lots of ways to help - just contact the Chapter and volunteer!"


August/September 2014 Heroes of the Month
Elsa A. Rivera, Hero

"I volunteer because I enjoy educating people with MS, along with their family and friends, through peer counseling and leading a monthly bilingual self-help group.  I also enjoy being a member of the Government Relations Committee where we advocate the Society’s legislative programs to local and state representatives.

"At the MS Walk in April a Society staff member brought a newly diagnosed woman to speak with me.  Within minutes of our conversation, she asked if she could hug me.  I am often told I’m very positive, but I will never forget the fear and depression I felt when I was newly diagnosed 15 years ago.  It helped her to hear that the emotions she was feeling were not uncommon so early in her diagnosis and that the physical symptoms she was experiencing were common in MS.  Volunteering since 2003 and meeting and speaking with hundreds of people during that time have brought me the peace I feel today.  Being able to help people is wonderful. I have enjoyed being able to help people as a volunteer."


August/September 2014 Heroes of the Month
Cheryl Mellor, Hero

"At university I studied Biological Sciences and my dissertation was on the causes of MS. Throughout my career as a Clinical Scientist in the organ transplantation unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the UK I studied immunology which included subjects in autoimmune diseases. For a long time I have been interested in MS and I became intimately involved with MS when I diagnosed in 2009.

"In 2011, my husband and I moved to the US. I wanted to contribute to furthering our knowledge of this debilitating disease and volunteering at the National MS Society Northern California Chapter was one small way in which I could help. It's been great getting to know the people there and their passion for helping the community. Great progress has been made in developing treatments to manage the disease and insight into the causes may soon lead to a cure, crossed fingers."

August/September 2014 Heroes of the Month
Linda Cotter, Hero

"I am an RN and former EMT who has served as a 'medic' at Bike MS: Waves to Wine. I’ve been involved with the MS Society since 1998.  It is an easy decision to associate with an organization run by excellent people and to be surrounded by dedicated volunteers and riders all working together to find a lasting cure for MS. The MS Society has become my 'favorite charity' as a way of honoring my hero, my sister, Joany, who had MS for 10 years. 

Although there were many setbacks in Joany’s fight with MS, she fought on with the courage of a champion.  I gave her the analogy of the tortoise and the hare and told her she was the tortoise.  I kept reminding her that the tortoise eventually prevailed over the hare and of the motto, 'slow and steady wins the race.'  She may not have bought my fables and analogies, but she pretended to."


June 2014 Heroes of the Month
Marie Hansen, Hero

Marie is a leader for the Santa Teresa Self-Help Group and a Team Captain for Team Marie of Walk MS: Monterey Bay and Silicon Valley. She is an incredible advocate for the Society's programs, resources, fundraising events and the support people can receive. Marie lives and breathes the National MS Society. She will help out however and whenever she can with a gleeful heart.

"Volunteering makes me feel needed as a person," said Marie. "Being a positive person has helped me and I want to help others have that positive feeling, too. By helping others I forget about my problems. We help each other in that way."

June 2014 Heroes of the Month
Isabel Santos, Hero

Isabel is a regular volunteer in the San Francisco Office and at many fundraising events. She asks complete strangers for money to help our cause and raised over $900 for Walk MS this year! Isabel is always willing to come in and help whenever needed and is an amazing volunteer!



June 2014 Heroes of the Month
Francesca Smith, Hero

Francesca has been a very committed volunteer for the for over five years, helping with Bike MS and Walk MS events. She is always willing to lend a hand with our fundraising endeavors, and goes above and beyond the call of duty when serving on the Santa Rosa Walk MS Committee. Her passion for the Society and commitment to the Chapter shines brightly for all to see.

June 2014 Heroes of the Month
Karen Gaetano, Hero

Karen was nominated by Will Telfer, Development Manager for Walk MS. Karen leads a Walk MS team from Walmart in Vacaville and leads popcorn and cotton candy sales at the store. She is constantly asking her store manager how she can further the store's involvement with the walk. Karen is also a member of the Walk MS: Solano County Committee.

A Hero Because: Karen gives the Society and Walk MS so much publicity in the Vacaville area. She encourages fundraising from individuals as well as staff members, which leads to more volunteers and more fundraising dollars for Walk MS. Karen always a smile on her face.


June 2014 Heroes of the Month
Cliff Nunes, Hero

Cliff was nominated by Sheila Doberenz, Community Development Coordinator. Cliff is a member of the Walk MS: Modesto Committee where he has served for several years. In addition, he attends Self Help Group meetings and programs to lend a hand.

A Hero Because: Cliff goes above the call of duty on a continuous basis, always willling to help, even if not asked, and can be counted on to do what he says he will do.

"I volunteer with the [Society] so no one has to navigate through their MS journey alone, especially the newly diagnosed," said Cliff.


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