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The Connecticut Chapter works to improve the quality of life for people affected by MS in Connecticut and raise funds for critical MS research. Join the movement toward a world free of MS.


Bristol Roller Derby Queen Knocked Down; But Not For The Count

August 11, 2011

Fights MS with Bubblegum Pink Hair

BRISTOL, Conn. – Life was “jammin’” along nicely for amateur roller derby vixen Linda Kelly-Dodd. In 1999 she and her husband, Dan Dodd, who is a senior Web editor for ESPN’s Sports Nation, left Kansas to start life anew in Bristol, Conn. Kelley, 38, took a position at Yale University as a costume project director in the theater department. But in 2008, like a powerful hit from a roller derby blocker, Kelly received crushing news that would first send her reeling and then scrambling to get back on track.

“Looking back, I realize now there were signs that something was amiss long before,” said Kelly-Dodd, whose nickname is “Pinky,” a named affectionately coined after she began sporting a signature bubble gum pink ‘do. “But at the time it seemed inconsequential, and I just carried on as if nothing was wrong.”

However, one day in the spring of 2008 Kelly-Dodd experienced something like an electrical shock wave. It seemed to happen every time she bent her head downward.

Soon after she lost feeling in her left hand and a strange numbing sensation radiated down her entire left side. She endured waves of vertigo.

“It seemed like I couldn’t walk a straight line; I had an extreme case of vertigo,” remembered Kelly-Dodd. “I went a local urgent care facility. There, the doctor ordered and MRI of my brain and then sent me home. “

Within hours, the doctor called Kelly-Dodd and told her to go straight to the hospital emergency room. That’s when she got the news. She was told she had multiple sclerosis – a potentially debilitating disease for which there is no cure.

“Initially, the news was shocking,” said Kelly-Dodd, who until her MS had always been the picture of health. “Prior to my diagnosis, I knew nothing about multiple sclerosis. The diagnosis threw me for a loop.”

Linda Kelley bike

Linda Kelley-Dodd, Bristol, Conn., cycles in her first National MS Society  Bike MS fundraising event. Today she is teaming up with the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, and VAz Media to showcase her jewelry at an upcoming benefit, Viva VAz Vegas. The event, focused on women, will be held Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Society Room in Hartford. 

More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Kelly-Dodd, battle multiple sclerosis – 450,000 nationwide. Symptoms associated with MS can include, among other things, numbness and tingling in the extremities, difficulty with vision or speech, stiffness, loss of mobility, and, in some severe circumstances, total paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted. Multiple sclerosis seems to affect women three times more often than men.

Although momentarily stunned by the diagnosis, Kelly-Dodd began working out and exercising. Having grown up roller skating, she recently joined the Hartford Area Roller Derby (HARD) as a co-coach and budding team member.

“The more I work out the better I deal with the symptoms of MS,” said Kelly-Dodd, who has participated in the National MS Society’s 30-mile bike ride on Martha’s Vineyard. “I want to stay as active as I can for as long as I can.”

Kelly-Dodd also began crafting her own line of jewelry. In 2010 she teamed up with Julia Sloan and Brazen Betties, a Torrington-based boutique showcasing handcrafted clothing, accessories, home accent pieces and distinctive artwork by Connecticut artisans. Kelly-Dodd, Sloan and Brazen Betties went on to partner with Alana La Fleur and Vanessa Jennings, owners of VAz Media, an event-planning agency specializing in women’s interests and supporting charities focused on helping women in need.

On Thursday, Sept. 22, VAz Media will present Viva VAz Vegas, an evening indulging women and filled with shopping, entertainment, fashion shows, massages and much more. The event, to be held at the Society Room in Hartford, will benefit the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter.

“It’s really touching to see people, like Julia, Alana and Vanessa, step up and support the fight against MS,” said Kelly-Dodd, who said that for now her MS symptoms seem to remain quiet and relatively unnoticeable. “There are so many worthy causes out there, many of which overshadow MS, so it means a lot to know people chose to engage in supporting MS.”

Prior VAz media events include VAz Fashion and Fantasy, VAz Feminine Fabulous Fun, VAz Fabulous Fun in the City, VAz Spring Glamour 2010, VAz Fabulous Fun for the Little Ladies and VAz One-Year Anniversary Celebration.

Viva VAz Vegas will be held at the Society Room in Hartford Thursday, Sept. 22, from 5 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $35 each. Guests, who must be 21 or older, receive a gift bag filled with samples from national and local vendors. Sponsors include JetBlue, which donate two round trip tickets to Las Vegas, Sculptures Salons and Lynette Mendoza-Villa Law.

“VAz events are lots of fun for everyone involved,” said Kelly-Dodd, whose jewelry will be on display in September at Viva VAz Vegas. “There are drawings for amazing prizes, opportunities to purchase neat things, designed with women in mind and then there’s the pampering – and what woman doesn’t deserve a little mollycoddling?”

For more information on VAz Media or to purchase tickets, visit

For more information on multiple sclerosis, its effects and the many ways to help make a difference, visit 

About the Connecticut Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society

The Connecticut Chapter strives to provide knowledge and assistance to help people with MS and their families maintain the highest possible quality of life. These goals are achieved through vital national and local programs.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.


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