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2014 Volunteer Awardees


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Chairman's Award: Laura & Jim Schallman

This is the highest award presented by the Chapter in recognition of distinguished service and outstanding support. The recipient is selected by the chapter’s chairman of the board.

Laura and Jim Schallman have a personal connection to MS, and they have been active contributors to the Greater Illinois Chapter for many years. As a good friend of Joe Weil, founder of the Carol Cohn and Margie Weil Memorial MS Outing, Jim has been involved with the Cohn Weil Committee for over 30 years as chairman for the event’s luncheon.

Laura has taken on an active role in the event for the past three years and has served as mahjong co-chairman for the past two years. Thanks to her dedication and hard work, along with her two co-chairs, Laura has helped increase the fundraising impact of the Cohn Weil mahjong tournament from $6,500 in 2013 to $27,000 in 2014.

In addition to their individual participation in the Cohn Weil outing, Laura and Jim, along with members of their family, have recruited more than 30 other participants to the event. Their incredible generosity also extends to their wallets, as the family has donated more than $150,000 in the last 10 years, including $36,500 this year alone. Those totals include contributions from Laura’s parents, Phil and Sandra Cooper, and her brother and sister-in-law, Carey and Cheryl Cooper.

The Schallmans are unwavering in their support of a world free of MS, and in recognition of their continued efforts year after year, they are being honored with the Chairman’s Award, the highest award presented by the Chapter in recognition of distinguished service and outstanding support.

Do It Yourself Fundraising Volunteer: Johnny Perona

Recognizing volunteers who create & coordinate community events to raise awareness & funds for MS

After being diagnosed with MS, Johnny Perona’s life took a dramatic turn. As a talented musician who has played in many bands over the past 20 years, Johnny worried how his MS diagnosis might affect his music career.

Prior to his diagnosis, Johnny participated in Walk MS and other fundraising events for the MS Society to support his good friend who is living with MS. The events showed him the importance of feeling empowered instead of victimized and inspired him to create a fundraiser of his own after receiving his diagnosis. Because of his history in the music business, the idea for his fundraising event came to him instinctively: put together a concert for charity.

In addition to performing with his band at the fundraiser, Johnny managed to reunite Backyard Tire Fire for a one night only reunion show, helping bring in an even bigger audience.

The concert was held on Nov. 23, 2013, at the former Cubby Bear Bar and Grill in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Johnny sold 450 tickets for the event and raised over $10,000, putting the MS Society one step closer to finding a cure for MS.

Excellence in Individual Fundraising – Bike MS: Edward Coury

Recognizing excellence in individual fundraising & leadership as part of Bike MS: Tour de Farms

Edward Coury impressively raised $10,000 his first year participating in Bike MS. As a member of Team Go Johnny Go, Edward, who goes by Ed, raised money in support of John Koys.

The Greater Illinois Chapter’s Bike MS: Tour de Farms is an event about teamwork rather than competition. Teams train together throughout the year, ride the route together, and encourage each other. With over 1,800 participants and 165 teams, it is remarkable to see so many individuals uniting behind one cause: ending MS. Ed rallied behind this cause and behind his team. With an impressive first year behind him, he will surely continue to accomplish great things with the National MS Society.

Excellence in Team Fundraising – Bike MS: Scottish Rite Masons

Recognizing excellence in team fundraising & leadership as part of Bike MS: Tour de Farms

The greatest connections can come from the simplest beginnings. The Scottish Rite Masons is a team that shows this very concept.

When team captain Timothy Reed saw a brochure for Bike MS in a bike shop 30 years ago, he probably didn’t know that it would turn out to be a three-decade long tradition with his friends and family. Initially, Tim signed up for Bike MS for the challenge, but he continues the ride to help those who are living with MS.

The Scottish Rite Masons team rides in Bike MS because it believes in the cause. Many people who ride, fundraise and/or volunteer at Bike MS are doing so in honor of a friend or family member affected by MS, but Tim and his team just believe in an MS-free world.

Today, he has a 16-member team that raises about $10,000 each year  through donations and distance pledges from friends, family and colleagues. The team also holds a bowling tournament and a “Split the Pot” raffle to raise money for the event.

Tim says that he participates in Bike MS each year because it’s a great physical challenge, there is good entertainment, he gets to learn more about the disease and it is a fantastic charity event.

Excellence in Individual Fundraising – Walk MS: Nancy Ireland

Recognizing excellence in individual fundraising and leadership as part of Walk MS

The Lincoln, Illinois, Community Walk MS event has raised over $320,000 since its conception in 2000, and leading up the successful event is Nancy Ireland. For the past 15 years, Nancy has been working hard to organize year-long fundraisers, raise awareness in the community, and recruit sponsors and Walk teams. The Lincoln Community Walk has been tremendously successful under Nancy’s leadership.

Inspired to Join the Movement after her daughter, Brenda, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Nancy started volunteering with the Greater Illinois Chapter in 1995. After participating in Walk MS in Springfield, Illinois, for five years, Nancy’s family was asked to help cultivate a new Walk MS site: Lincoln. With the support of close-knit committee members, including Brenda, who also served as chairperson in past years, the Lincoln Community Walk impressively raised over $10,000 in its first year and over $30,000 at its peak.

The impact on the Lincoln community has been more than just monetary. Nancy remembers when the walk first started in Lincoln and few community members knew much about multiple sclerosis. After speaking at several civic meetings, participating in interviews for local media outlets, and widening the scope of the Walk MS event in Lincoln every year, Nancy is confident that a great deal of awareness and information about multiple sclerosis has been brought to the community.

Excellence in Team Fundraising – Walk MS: KPMG Stompers

Recognizing excellence in team fundraising and leadership as part of Walk MS

KPMG is a U.S. audit, tax and advisory service firm and one of the largest professional services firms in the world. KPMG employees across the U.S. volunteer for and manage community involvement programs as part of their commitment to local communities. In 2013, KPMG employees logged more than 105,000 hours, 35,000 of which came from the firm’s paid Volunteer Time Release program.

The MS Society is one of KPMG’s strategic national charitable affiliations, and the firm’s employees participate in several Society events throughout the country, including Walk MS, Bike MS, and MuckFest MS. Collectively, the organization has raised over $10 million for the MS Society. For this achievement, KPMG was honored with a Circle of Distinction award in 2013 and has been recognized by the MS Society as an MS Corporate Star, the highest level of recognition for its corporate partners.

The firm’s Walk MS team, the KPMG Stompers, achieved the status of top team at the Chicago Lakefront Walk MS 2013, raising $7,295 for the Greater Illinois Chapter and earning the Rookie of the Year award for their efforts. They set the bar even higher in 2014 by raising $11, 670, earning them the Greater Illinois Chapter’s Walk MS Excellence in Team Fundraising award.

Much of the KPMG Stompers' success comes from the dedication and leadership of Heather Xu,
the team's captain. Heather, who is living with MS, took the initiative after joining the firm to increase its Walk MS impact by growing the team and raising awareness.

Excellence in Individual Fundraising – Finish MS: Mike Cordes 

Recognizing excellence in individual fundraising and leadership as part of Finish MS

For the past four years, Mike Cordes has joined a crowd of runners in Chicago’s Grant Park, the start of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, with the intention of racing for one cause: multiple sclerosis. Each year, Mike runs a total of 26.2 miles through 29 Chicago neighborhoods on behalf of the National MS Society and his son, Neil, who was first diagnosed with MS at the age of 19. Consistently the Finish MS top fundraiser, Mike has raised over $4,000 annually, totaling over $30,000 for the Finish MS program.

Mike and his family first began volunteering with the National MS Society, Greater Illinois Chapter over five years ago after Neil — who was a sophomore at the time — was diagnosed with MS. After forming a team and participating in Bike MS for a number of years, Mike approached the Chapter about incorporating the Bank of America Chicago Marathon into the Society’s Finish MS program.

Since then, Mike has recruited many others to join the Chicago Marathon Finish MS team; he even recruited Neil’s doctor to run the marathon and fundraise on behalf of the MS Society. This year, Mike will be running the Chicago Marathon again, and as always, his wife and son will be cheering him on as he runs past the orange MS tent on Charity Row. 

June Golin Service Award: Dave and Cecile Perez

Recognizing outstanding achievement in the development and delivery of services to people living with MS

Dave and Cecile Perez helped to re-establish the Peer Visitor Program for the Greater Illinois Chapter in 2011 and have since demonstrated a commitment to providing a much needed service to those who are living with MS in nursing and rehabilitation facilities.

Both Dave and Cecile were diagnosed with MS in the ‘80s, so they understand what it feels like to go through the ups and downs of the disease. The Peer Visitor Program was brought back because of this understanding and their desire to help people in nursing and rehabilitation centers who may feel isolated and alone.

The program began with visits to the Marianjoy Rehabilitation Center, but it has since expanded to other facilities and added more volunteers: Ann Coltrane, Jan Mauge and Michael Koubenec. They now volunteer at a total of five facilities, seeing up to seven people per visit. The socialization and compassion they show have brought unbelievable comfort to those who have limited interaction with peers who understand the various situations that affect people living with MS. 

For the past 17 years, Dave and Cecile have also held a fundraising event called “Skydiving for MS,” which provides a truly liberating experience for those whose mobility is limited due to MS complications. The event has raised over $25,000 in past years.

Legislator of Year Award

Recognizing the work of state officials who make life better for people living with MS

Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton

Chicago native John J. Cullerton received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Loyola University Chicago, as well as a Juris Doctorate from the school’s prestigious School of Law. In 1979, after a career practicing law, Cullerton was elected to the Illinois General Assembly, where he served as a member of the House of Representatives for 12 years. In 1992, he was elected to the Illinois Senate, representing Illinois’s 6th Legislative District, covering parts of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties. Today, Cullerton serves as the President of the Illinois Senate.

Cullerton is a fierce ally of people living with multiple sclerosis. He has continually sponsored Society legislation, including the requirement for insurers to provide preventative physical therapy to Illinois residents living with MS — this proved to be a groundbreaking accomplishment for the Greater Illinois Chapter and its constituents. Additionally, Cullerton supported The MS Project, an annual Illinois Lottery $2 instant-win ticket that has raised $6 million for MS research since it began in 2007. He also sponsored the Gas Station Accessibility Law, which provides access to people living with disabilities to request refueling assistance — the law was signed in 2012 and went into effect in January of 2014.

In 2014, Cullerton was imperative to the passage of Senate Bill 1640 by both Republican and Democratic chambers. The Bill established an MS Task Force consisting of 16 members appointed by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The MS Task Force is charged with seeking solutions to address the needs of people living with MS, only the second to be established in the country.

Illinois House Leader James B. Durkin  

James B. Durkin graduated from Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal in 1984 with a degree in criminal justice and received his Juris Doctorate from The John Marshall School of Law in Chicago in 1989. Durkin served as Illinois state representative to the 44th District from 1995 to 2002 and as representative to the 82nd House District in 2006. In 2013, Durkin was selected by his Republican peers as the Illinois House Republican leader.

Durkin is a longtime proponent of issues important to people living with MS, disabilities and chronic illnesses. He is a member of the Misericordia Board of Advisors, a community health center offering care to people with disabilities. He also sits on the Giant Steps of Illinois Board of Directors, an organization focused on serving the needs of people diagnosed with autism, as well as the JDRF Board of Directors, an organization focused on the impacts of type 1 diabetes. Durkin is truly dedicated to the people of Illinois and has earned several honors for his hard work.

Durkin continues to practice law in Chicago in addition to his legislative duties. He currently resides in Western Springs, Illinois, with his wife and four daughters.

Public Education Award: Golin

Recognizing print and broadcast media outlets and personalities who best inform the public about MS  

Golin is a holistic communications firm dedicated to providing innovative public relations solutions to clients across several industries. The Chicago-based firm was founded in 1956 by Al Golin and is one of the top 10 largest Public Relations firms in the world.

Golin’s wife, June, has worked closely with the Greater Illinois Chapter for many years, and it was through her work and participation with the Chapter that GolinHarris decided to build awareness and participation for Walk MS 2014.

The firm volunteered their services to create a customized Walk MS campaign, performed media outreach and social media activities, helped with day-of activities, and created an interactive personality called Coach Walker who offered fundraising and training tips leading up to the event. Several employees also worked as volunteers at the event.

The firm brought an exciting new level of expertise to the Walk MS campaign, helping the Chapter increase its public relations efforts to make a greater impact. They also raised money for the Society through office fundraising activities.

Rookie Fundraiser of the Year: Joffe Family (Allen, Brandon & Hailey)

Recognizes excellence in individual or team fundraising and leadership during the first year of participation


The Joffe family has a knack for turning service projects into fundraising dollars. Since their first MS Society event in 2012, they have worked together to raise a combined total of nearly $32,000 through Bike MS and Walk MS, earning them the collective title of Rookie Fundraiser of the Year.

Brandon Joffe, 15, and his sister Hailey, 13, chose MS Society events for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah projects, and with their father, Allen Joffe, by their side, they both became top fundraisers.

Brandon participated in his first Bike MS: Tour de Farms in 2012, and from the moment he signed up, Allen knew that he was also in. Fundraising was a critical part of the ride for the father and son, and their dedication to raising money for MS was evident in their results. They were each named to the Gold Spokes Club — a privileged group of cyclists comprised of the top 150 fundraisers from the ride — in 2013 and 2014, and after yet another successful year of fundraising, they will hold their spots for 2015.

After watching her father and brother receive so many donations — some of which she helped bring in — Hailey decided to get in on the action this year. She wanted to do her part to help those affected by MS, so she signed up for her first Walk MS and recruited a team made up of her friends. Like the rest of her family, Hailey had no trouble getting donations to become one of the top first year fundraisers. Allen joined her in fundraising and at the event, hoping that Walk MS 2014 would be the first of many with his daughter

Support Group Facilitator of the Year: Jean Young

Recognizing volunteers who have made significant contributions to providing outstanding leadership and support for people living with MS and the Chapter

Jean Young has been living with MS since 1984. She became involved with the National MS Society 10 years ago and has been engaged in a variety of ways.

She is the Downers Grove support group leader and serves as a member of the Support Group Leadership Council, where she shares her support group expertise with newer volunteers. Jean is extremely proactive and dedicated to her support group members. She consistently schedules informative guest speakers and is always thinking of new ways to keep her group engaging and interesting. She even contacts the Chapter to brainstorm ideas for future meetings.

Jean started going to the support group as a participant in 2003, but when the group facilitator left, she felt she needed to step up so the group could continue. As the current group facilitator, Jean is in charge of setting up meeting times (they meet once a month), scheduling doctors and other guest speakers to talk with the group about the latest in MS treatments and therapies, and communicating with the co-facilitators who help her run the group.

Because of the need for online communication between group members, she took computer classes in 2006 to better learn computer functions so she could more efficiently serve the group.

Jean is very involved in the advocacy efforts of the organization and has had a strong presence locally and nationally. She has been to the U.S. Capitol to speak with federal legislators on behalf of the MS Society to advance policies and programs that benefit people living with MS and their families. She is active at the state level as well, making frequent trips to Springfield and local district offices to talk with state legislators. Her proudest achievement to date was the successful push to require gas station phone numbers to be posted on pumps to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

Volunteer of the Year: Phil Berger (posthumously) and Family

Recognizing individuals for outstanding contributions in a volunteer role for the Chapter and in promoting the Chapter’s volunteer opportunities

Phil Berger was an outstanding individual who never let living with MS break his spirit. his dedication to the MS Society’s mission to end MS was clear. He did a lot on behalf of the MS Society, including organizing fundraising carnivals, placing donation canisters in restaurants, selling candy bars and entertainment books, and advocating in public forums on behalf of the Society. He also served as the support group facilitator at Park Ridge for over 30 years, where his warmth, compassion and commitment to the cause inspired all whom he encountered.

Phil’s family members consistently rallied behind him and participated with him at Walk MS and Bike MS events. His Bike MS success was helped along by the support of his daughters, Jodee Burkhart and Janice Davis; his son-in-laws, Jerry Burkhart and Barry Davis; and his grandchildren, Jeremy, Jason, Jaimee and Matthew. At such events, the Berger family has been instrumental in delivering supplies to rest stops and ensuring the safety of bike riders, which was no easy task with over 1,800 riders at Bike MS 2014. The importance of his family’s continuous support was a driving force in all aspects of Phil’s life, volunteerism and fundraising efforts.

Phil passed away on June 14, 2014. The National MS Society, Greater Illinois Chapter honors his remarkable efforts by recognizing him and his family as 2014’s Volunteers of the Year.

Excellence in Corporate Engagement Award: Sam’s Club

This award recognizes excellence in corporations and businesses that have demonstrated our key core values and shown outstanding overall support to the Chapter.

Sam’s Club is an American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs and the largest corporate supporter of the MS Society’s Walk MS campaign.

Sam’s Club has a longstanding community-based relationship with the Society, and it launched a nationwide grassroots fundraiser in 2011, holding events like cookouts, bowl-a-thons and dodge ball tournaments to raise $1.2 million for people in communities affected by MS.

In 2013, Sam’s Club associates raised $2 million in six short weeks, bringing their total from 2011 to 2013 to over $4.7 million. In Illinois alone, Sam’s Club has raised over $300,000, including nearly $100,000 in 2014.

Not only did Sam’s Clubs across Illinois raise funds to support the MS Society, they also supported community outreach efforts and attended community Walk MS events. Each club was tasked with committing 250 volunteer service hours to support the movement to end MS, and each store had associates sign up to walk and volunteer at Walk MS.

Sam's Club has done an amazing job raising money and awareness for Walk MS and the MS Society as a whole. Its impact in the many Sam’s Clubs communities is overwhelming, and the Greater Illinois Chapter is thankful for the generosity and compassion shown by all its employees.

Norman Cohn Hope Award: Sean Gallagher

This award is the Society's highest volunteer award given by a chapter and goes to an individual who epitomizes Norman Cohn's vision for voluntary civic action and hope for the future.

Sean Gallagher has served as chair of the Greater Illinois Chapter's board of trustees over the past three years and has been a board member for the past decade. As chair, Sean has been instrumental in leading the Chapter through a transition period when he first took over, steadying the Chapter's financial situation and ultimately leading the Chapter to a period of sustained financial growth. The Chapter achieved record-breaking fundraising success, resulting in 27 percent growth from 2013 to 2014, the highest increase in the nation. He was also instrumental in leading the Chapter's increase in gross revenue to $1.7 million over the past four years through fundraising events — including Walk MS, Bike MS, Dinner of Champions, Women on the Move — in addition to increased Illinois lottery funding.

Sean is a long-time supporter of Bike MS, first as a rider in 2006 and then a year later as a team captain. Over the past eight years, Sean's bike team has raised over $175,000, and he has personally secured more than $83,000 in donations. A devoted family man, Sean involves his wife and two children in fundraising events such as Walk MS, MS Slugfest and MuckFest MS. Together, Sean and his wife have personally donated nearly $75,000, helping bring us ever closer to a world free of MS.

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