The slogan “one step closer” has defined my life. At 14 years old, my older sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and keeps people from moving. Symptoms include double vision, loss of balance, loss of coordination and paralysis. So far, there is no cure.
When I was younger, I did not understand much of what MS was other than it was something you went to the doctor for, and it would get better in a week. I could not understand why my sister would cry so much or why she was in so much pain. As I got older and visited her at the hospital several times, I began to realize this was not something that was going away. This would stay with her forever unless someone stepped up to find a cure. I decided that person was going to be me.
I became the first youth ambassador to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for my high school and attended meetings to help plan the walk where I live in Putnam County in New York state. I worked with student organizations at school to create the largest team to walk in Putnam County.
When I arrived at Ithaca College, I realized there was no established student support for the cause here either, so I founded Ithaca College’s Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Club. We meet biweekly and host a variety of events. I contacted the NMSS’s upstate New York chapter and found out the Ithaca Walk for MS was in jeopardy of being shut down because of low participation rates and donations. I was put in touch with the club’s officers, and it has allowed us to bring new experiences to the walk. We gather student organizations, and they set up their own teams for the walk. Last May, ICMSA’s team was recognized in the top 50 fundraising teams in upstate New York because we raised more than $5,000. The decision was made to keep the walk going because of ICMSA’s efforts.
This year, we are hosting our second annual dinner dance on Dec. 4 at the Holiday Inn. Last year, we raised $1,000 for ICMSA, the Accelerated Cure Project and NMSS, but this year we hope to raise even more.
The events ICMSA holds are not only beneficial for the college but also for the community. The NMSS has been pushing for more support from the Ithaca community, but only a handful of people attend monthly MS support group meetings downtown. We hope to draw more attention to the support group and bring more people in the community who have MS to our meetings.
MS is not as widespread as other diseases like cancer. This makes it harder to gain a following because many people simply do not know about it. This is a challenge ICMSA is constantly trying to overcome, so we create events that appeal to all kinds of people. We hope that as we get the word out, more and more people will create a following to find a cure for MS.