(HARTLAND, WISCONSIN) – More than 125 walkers and nearly 50 volunteers gathered in Door County September 18-20 to participate in the 8th annual, three-day, 50-mile Challenge Walk MS. Together with the more than $395,000 generated so far through this year’s event, the walk has raised more than $2.8 million since it began in 2008.
The challenge comes in both the distance walked and the money raised. Challenge Walk MS participants walk 20 miles on Friday, 20 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday, covering much of Door County (a two-day, 30-mile option also is available) and commit to raising or donating a minimum of $1,500. The money funds multiple sclerosis-related research and programs.
Only a handful of such walks are held in the U.S. each year.
Participants included 32 who have been diagnosed with MS, including John Haupt of Wauwatosa, who completed all 50 miles using a self-powered wheelchair and became the event’s top fundraiser for 2015 by raising more than $16,000 in donations. “I’ve been asked why I do this and I say, ‘Because I’m lucky,’” Haupt said. “Don't get me wrong, MS is no bargain, but after 43 years of it, I've seen how much worse things can be. There are hundreds of thousands of other who only wish they could do the Challenge Walk.”
Laura and Anna Chastain of Madison, a mother and daughter team, were among the event’s 50 first-time participants. “My daughter and I decided we wanted to have some sort of an adventure. I saw this and thought, ‘All right, this is it,’” explained Laura who, like Haupt, is living with MS. Laura worked with a trainer on some leg strengthening exercises in the months leading up to the walk and attributes that to helping her cover approximately seven miles each of the three days. When walking did become too much, 19-year-old Anna stepped in, carrying her mom piggy-back style during some portions of the route. They were named Rookies of the Year at the celebration lunch held on the final day of the walk.
Diane Hackbarth of Sheboygan was one of the event’s volunteers. “I do this because 10 years ago my daughter was diagnosed with MS and I found out that MS is stronger than a mom’s kiss – I couldn’t kiss it and make it better. So I volunteer to raise money for the people who can, and they’re doing wonderful work. As long as they’re making progress, I’ll keep volunteering.”
Donations are still being accepted and can be made online at challengewalkMSwi.org or by calling 262-369-4400 (toll-free inside Wisconsin 800-242-3358). Registration is also open for next year’s walk, September 16-18, 2016; anyone who signs up by October 30 will save $26 on the registration fee.
Click here to see the number of people in each Wisconsin county who have disclosed to the National MS Society that they have been diagnosed, and click here for an indication of the economic impact.