John & Kris Bradley: Prioritizing Health Equity for All
When John and Kris Bradley met in the seventh grade, they couldn’t have imagined the path that life would eventually usher them down together. Reunited as adults and married in 1986, they began building an exciting future that would include two daughters, worldwide travel (and living abroad) and eventually, in 2011, Kris’s diagnosis with progressive MS.
Kris had a nursing background and experience in neurology, therefore wasn’t shocked about her diagnosis. “I really wasn’t surprised, because of the types of tests he was doing. I was disappointed it took so long to be diagnosed… going back through my history, my neurologist told me I had had MS for about 25 years.” At the time, they lived in Switzerland and couldn’t locally access the treatment Kris had been prescribed. During the years they lived overseas, they routinely flew back and forth to the US - cooler in tow - to transport her three-month supply of medication across the Atlantic Ocean.
For more than a decade, the Bradleys have supported the efforts of the Society from several angles: most notably, as lead investors for Pathways to Cures and the International Progressive MS Alliance. Thanks to the incredible generosity of supporters like the Bradleys, research for progressive MS is unveiling discoveries at a rapid-fire rate. People no longer must wait decades for a definitive diagnosis.
“Our concern early on was that there was not much focus on progressive MS. So, we got engaged with the International Progressive MS Alliance as early supporters,” John said. Still, they sought more ways to get plugged in and set out to encourage others to explore their own involvement. “We’ve talked to people about doubling down on engagement, and to understand that doesn’t come in one shape or form… we are embarking on closeness to cures and it’s worth digging in. Invest where you believe and do what you can as an individual.”
This year, the Bradleys committed to being the Society’s first lead investors for our comprehensive DEI and health equity efforts.
“We were absolutely clear on how important it was for Kris’s health to get medical care how we needed it: that meant a medical staff that was interested and concerned but not hindered by barriers and bias - and she got what she needed. We also knew that wasn’t true for everyone and we were willing to acknowledge that some of that came from our privilege. If we’re committed to help for all, we saw this as a real area of concern. It isn’t good enough for us to make access better for a few, or for the people who already had access, but it’s important for us to make sure that access is universal, global, cuts across all lines. It’s work and focus that is important to us in other areas of our life and it was a natural follow-on for us to say “yes, sign us up,” because this is incredibly important,” John explained.
Kris applauds the Society as leaders in the MS movement. “Without the work that you do, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Please keep doing it.” We are inspired by the Bradleys’ leadership and celebrate their outstanding commitment to changing the world for all people affected by MS.
John & Sandy Wurzburger: Igniting Impact Through Events
In 1996, while on vacation in Syracuse, Sandy Wurzburger had a bout of optic neuritis. At the time, a definitive MS diagnosis required a minimum of two telltale symptoms, so after a spinal tap revealed a clean report, she went on with her life. “I forgot about the idea of MS,” she said.
Two years later, after the birth of her daughter Brooke, more symptoms surfaced and finally, the diagnosis was clear. But Sandy remained optimistic. “Keeping a positive attitude is hard when you’ve just been diagnosed, but it really helps. Your friends and family can see that while you’ve been dealt this disease, you know there are treatments out there and people who can help,” she said.
“The one thing you can’t take from her is her positivity – she figures out how to deal with the circumstances. We all locked arms as a family. We play the hand we’re dealt,” said her husband John.
The Wurzburgers called Ohio home at the time of her diagnosis, and soon got involved with Walk MS: Cleveland. Not long after, John became a board member on the Ohio board as Sandy pursued support groups to learn more about her new diagnosis. They were all in.
From 2001 to 2005, the Wurzburgers lived abroad in Argentina. Sandy’s neurologist in Argentina was connected with her former care team at the Cleveland Clinic, and the Wurzburgers credit the Society with playing a major role in facilitating the seamless transfer and continuity of Sandy’s care.
Twenty-five years after her diagnosis, they now live in Charlotte, North Carolina, are top fundraisers for Walk MS and passionate supporters of the Great Gatsby Gala. Sandy, a former event planner, loves serving on the committee for the glamorous fundraiser, and the family enthusiastically sponsors the event. “Fundraising and sponsorship isn’t always a corporate effort - families can really lean into supporting the Society. I want people to know this is where I spend a lot of my money. Not just because my wife has it, but because a lot of people have it,” John said. “We go big on Gatsby because we’re just trying to bring more people in. I want to get more people aware of what this disease is. We’ve been living with it for 30 years, that’s the reality of it.”
Like so many other spouses and caregivers, John is an enthusiastic cheerleader for his wife. He is adamant that mindset is a major contributor to well-being. “If you shelter yourself, you lose that purpose. You have to – at all costs – maintain that purpose. You can’t let MS define you. Sandy’s been able to project that. We all stand behind her and she does all she can possibly do to impact and help others and be the face of ‘don’t give up.”
“Keep exercising,” Sandy said. “If you’re walking, keep walking. If you like to run, run. When I didn’t stay moving, that’s when I would get worse.”
Sandy and John keep close eyes on the Society’s research pursuits, and are inspired by the focus on cures. “The importance of research and the advancements that have been made in a relatively short window – that’s what I like about what’s going on right now. It’s not just one angle, it’s not just drugs – that message of ‘we have a cure in sight and you can impact curing something’? That’s a big deal,” John said.
“Realize you’re not alone. Have the courage to ask for help. The Society has a tremendous breadth of resources, so, ask for help. Get involved.”
The Society is grateful for the multi-faceted involvement of the Wurzburgers, and their steadfast dedication to raising awareness and funds to end MS forever.
Kristin Hanna: A Heartfelt Focus on Children of Parents Living with MS
Kristin Hanna always remembers her mom, Joan Blume, being different from the other moms. Growing up outside of Philadelphia, “it was very strange to have a mother in a wheelchair. Although she couldn’t walk or do many things other parents did, she left me with a lasting message about how a positive outlook can change everything. So, I never saw my mom as ‘sick’ – I only saw her for this silly, positive role model, a perfect mom despite her disability,” Kristin said.
While Joan lived with relapsing-remitting MS for the entirety of her young daughters’ lives, Kristin fondly recalls how much her mom poured her entire life into making certain Kristin and her older sister felt cherished and adored. Joan would reliably inject humor and levity into incidents when she’d fallen or her girls were frightened about the way her MS symptoms had presented. “You never knew what you were going to walk into – that was my entire childhood, seeing her highs and lows.”
Joan endured symptoms for years before a spinal tap definitively diagnosed her with MS at the age of 24. For years, she used a wheelchair and faced a barraged of symptoms including neuropathy and numbness yet remained witty and upbeat. In 2011, at the age of 57, she passed away suddenly due to complications of MS. Kristin sought ways to get involved with the Society in memory of her beloved mother. She participated in former Society event, MuckFest MS, and Walk MS about a year after Joan passed away. When at Walk MS: Philadelphia for the first time, Kristin was overwhelmed at the experience and seeing everyone supporting the same mission. “I thought, ‘I’ve been missing out, I want to be part of that – it lit a fire under me.”
In reflection of the lack of resources available during her mom’s life and the experience of her own childhood, she looked into more specific ways to invest in the Society. Kristin explored investing in the robust MS Navigator program, ensuring people have access to critical support when and how they need it most. She was also committed to helping children with parents living with MS. MS Adventure Camp is a former Society program that offered children of people living with MS an overnight camp experience, building community with other kids who have similar life experiences, either living with MS personally or those with parents who do. Kristin visited one of the Camp sites in summer 2023 to witness what support structures are in place to elevate the lives of kids who deal with the ripple effects of MS. She also recently became an MS Ambassador. Kristin is living proof of exploring and investing in the wide range of opportunities the Society has for involvement. And she does it all in honor of her beloved mom. “My mom taught me that you just continue to fight and push through with every ounce of energy that you have left. Because we are all stronger than we ever realized.”