HARKER HEIGHTS — Bright orange tents and shirts dotted Carl Levin Park on Saturday morning as cool temperatures greeted walkers at the 13th annual MS Walk to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Event organizer Christina Smith had large shoes to fill after the death of original organizer Peggy Muller in 2012.

“She was a great woman, and thankfully, a lot of the committee members came back to help make this year’s walk as great as previous years,” Smith said.

Jeanne Hoyenski, diagnosed in 2005, can trace her multiple sclerosis to 1993. She works in the community to bring awareness to the debilitating disease.

“Research is needed because people don’t realize that MS ends your life as you know it, and we need to find a cure,” Hoyenski said.

Gloriar Gutierrez, who lives at Fort Sill, Okla., and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2011, returned to Central Texas for the MS Walk to participate with her family.

“I raised $872 last year, and so far, $785 this year but I’m still waiting on one more check to come in,” Gutierrez said.

Her faithful supporter, Rebecca Weirich of Harker Heights, was affected by Gutierrez’s diagnosis two years ago. “It hit me like a bomb. It’s not like breast cancer or something that’s in the news a lot, so we didn’t know much about it,” Weirich said.

For Smith, organizing next year’s event starts today.

“I’m already planning next year. We need more committee members and volunteers. We had wonderful food donations from Chick-fil-A of Harker Heights, Domino’s on 10th Street, McAlister’s Deli and seeing our community come out and get together, supporting each other. This keeps me going,” Smith said.

Trenton Foster, National MS Society development manager, said the Harker Heights walk has earned approximately $150,000 in the past 12 years. This year, it’s expected to top $25,000 with 250 walkers registering.

“This year, 81 cents of every dollar donated goes to national programs and services to include financial aid, group therapy, camps for families and children affected by MS,” Foster said.

For more information or to donate, contact Foster at Trenton.Foster@NMSS.org.

Herald/ Kathryn Leisinger

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