Next week (March 8-14) is national Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. Mari Marson and Linda Gill thought this would be a great time to get the word out about the upcoming Walk MS being held May 2 with the start and finish at the Hudson Middle School. The Hudson walk is one of 18 in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin being held the same day.
Marson, a 1974 Hudson High School graduate, had volunteered years earlier as a bike rider raising funds for MS. As a result she was in the organizations data base as a past participant. Last year the first year of the Hudson walk, she was contacted to help. This year she is the chair person of the event. Through her volunteer efforts she met Linda Gill, a Hudson resident, who was diagnosed with MS in 2000. The two have formed a friendship united in a common goal.
"It changed my life a lot," said Gill. "Now I am a group facilitator for people who have MS. I have been volunteering every since I was diagnosed. It was scary and once I understood it more I embraced it. Yes I am MS."
"It is an autoimmune disease that affects everyone differently," said Marson. "Its symptoms can come and go."
"They have plenty of drugs that can help," said Gill, who admits to occasionally tiring of self administering the shots that help her. "The National MS Society is a great resource for a person with MS and I have learned to ask for help." The MS Society provides a wide assortment of help from assistance with lawn work to motorized scooters. You just have to provide proof of your diagnosis.
Gill's children were initially very scared and thought their mother was going to die.
"They have learned to accept that there are a lot of things I used to be able to do that I can't do today but I am still alive," said Gill. "One of the biggest things I despise is that friends look at me differently. For example even though I can't bowl, I can still go out and have a good time, keep score and cheer them on." She finds journaling helps her cope with the side effects of having MS.
"I can still come out and have fun," said Gill, who is retired from the General Motors. "I live one day at a time but the key is I am still living and I am still alive."
Marson first volunteered because her mom has scleroderma, a related autoimmune disease.
"It was my way of getting involved and giving back," said Marson. "Hudson is the only town in Western Wisconsin to host a walk."
Last year, 360 people participated in the Hudson walk, raising $42,000 dollars. The funds stay local with the Minnesota Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The success was due largely to Gill and Marson, who had not met, before teaming up to make the 2009 event a community effort.
"The pledges go to provide the support services offered by the society," said Gill.
This year the walk will have two options for participants a one mile and a 3.5 mile route. Both will begin and end at the Middle School and offer less hills than last year. Lunch will be provided. The event begins at 11 a.m. on May 2.
"The community has been very supportive with the vast majority of donations coming from Hudson businesses," said Marson. "One of the things that I hope comes about is that people will come out to help create awareness that this event is in Hudson."
For more information or to volunteer to help with the event you may call Marson at 715-381-1822. To register to participate in the walk you can visit www.walkMSmn.org or call 1-800-582-5296.