MS Walk fundraising provides hope
People like Cathie McCahon are the reason valley residents continue to flock to the MS Walk, raising more than $1 million in 14 years.
The latest venture Sunday at the Cowichan Sportsplex padded the coffers by $117,000 through the efforts of 176 walkers on 29 teams doing either three, five or 10 kilometres for the cause.
"It was a great event,'' said Vanessa Martin, the corporate and community development co-ordinator for the Cowichan office of the MS Society. "Lots of people came out to support it.
"Fifty per cent of the funds raised go to multiple sclerosis research and the other 50% to our office for local support programs,'' Martin added. "It really does help the local people in our community. There's a place for them to go.''
McCahon and so many others are the face of the disease in the community. They've endured their own hardships and maintain hope for a cure from the constant fundraising that leads to more advanced research.
"This chronic, debilitating and life-altering disease must be stopped soon,'' said McCahon, 57, in advance of the walk. "It is our hope that through fundraising events like this we can raise both awareness, and the money needed to find a cure.''
McCahon was just 30 when she was diagnosed with MS.
"My legs collapsed as I was crossing a parking lot heading to my car,'' she recalled. "This was the first of many strange symptoms I would experience. Within that first week, I was plagued by numbness in my arms, vision disturbances, ongoing weakness in my legs and odd nerve sensations.''
McCahon was eventually forced to give up the things she loved. She had to stop playing softball within two years and leave her job as food and beverage co-ordinator at the Cowichan Community Centre within three.
"I could no longer ride bikes with my girls,'' she added. "I had to use a cane when I walked because I staggered, people would point at me as if I were drunk. The next year I was using a walker and over the years I progressed into a manual chair. Now, I require an electric chair.''
McCahon's story is typical of so many affected by MS. Every walker/runner was there at the event in support of a family member or friend.
The courage being shown by people like McCahon to lead as much of a normal life as possible is astounding.
"I swim five or six times a week, I travel with my family, socialize with my friends and fundraise for a cure for MS,'' she said. "It just takes me longer and requires some adjustments as well as patience.
"I must say, though, my patience is wearing thin. It is time to find a cure.''
According to Martin, fundraising efforts here are certainly helping the cause.
"It's a great community, really generous community,'' she said. "Everyone's been great.''
The MS Walk is held in more than 160 communities across Canada.