There was a celebratory feel in the air at Carl Levin Park Saturday morning as hundreds of people — about 300 total — participated in the Killeen area’s annual walk to raise money to help find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.
As a large crowd made their way around the park’s trail wearing their respective teams’ brightly colored T-shirts, some participants mingled under tents as lively music blasted out of speakers placed around the park.
In a way, it was a celebration: one of perseverance, determination and hope for hundreds of people living in the community who fight against the debilitating disease on a daily basis.
“It gives those with MS motivation to get out and interact with the community, in addition to gaining education and resources,” said Allen Muller, whose late wife, Peggy, started the walk 15 years ago.
“I’ve seen this event allow people to really come out of their shell, people who were reclusive or feeling pretty down,” he stated.
The event raised about $38,000, money that will go toward funding research for a cure as well as to support programs that help people with MS, said Walk Chair Christina Smith, who added that 40 teams participated in this year’s fundraiser.
The top team, “Kristi’s Crusaders,” raised $16,000 by hosting a motorcycle rally in Kristi Bode’s hometown of Milano.
“I was diagnosed in 2008, and at the time, I was a nurse who had often taken care of people with MS, so I recognized the signs,” Bode said. “My dad, Ray, rides Harleys, so we’ve been hosting an annual fundraiser since 2009 with a bike ride, live auction and barbecue plates. I started out doing this for my kids so they won’t ever have to go through this, but it’s brought some great people into my life. We’ll keep going until there’s a cure.”
Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive disease of the central nervous system that affects each person differently.
Many MS patients, like Lauren Smith, who participated in the walk with her mother and sister, suffer from symptoms such as chronic fatigue.
“It’s good to get out and meet other people who have MS, to share testimonies,” she said, adding, “I don’t let it stop me. I’m involved with many activities, like dance teams and youth groups at my church.”
“I didn’t really understand MS until my daughter was diagnosed with it, because it hadn’t affected us before that,” said Doris Dove, Smith’s mother. “But now that I see what Lauren’s going through, I don’t wish that on anyone — and that’s why we are totally involved.”
For more information, visit nationalmssociety.org.