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Battlefield scene of MS Walk

April 17, 2005|by MARIE GILBERT

SHARPSBURG - Standing before the vast expanse of Antietam National Battlefield, Susan Weaver stretched her legs and adjusted her shoelaces.

"Blue skies, warm weather and a good cause - that's what it's all about," the 22-year old Hagerstown resident said.

Weaver was among the hundreds of walkers and volunteers who came together Saturday for the Washington County Multiple Sclerosis Walk.

The purpose of the five-mile walk is to raise money to fight MS, raise public awareness about the effects of the disease and offer hope and encouragement to MS patients, said Amanda Culler, development manager of the Maryland Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

According to Culler, more than 600 people were expected to participate in the walk.

"We're thrilled with the turnout," she said. "In Washington County, we're volunteer-driven. So this is truly a community event - from the number of walkers to the corporations and businesses who serve as sponsors."

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Culler noted the Washington County Multiple Sclerosis Walk is one of the larger ones in Maryland.

While the amount of money raised had not yet been totaled, Culler said organizers are hoping to top last year's total of $50,000. Statewide, the goal is $800,000.

Culler said much of the money will be used to support the many offerings of the local MS chapter.

"We have a loan closet, through which individuals can secure wheelchairs, walkers and other equipment; we provide medical transportation; and we have a great information and referral service," Culler said. "If you are diagnosed with MS and have questions, we have someone in our office who can be of assistance or refer you to community resources. We also have a strong support group and a physical wellness program with aquatic and yoga classes."

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease of the central nervous system. MS can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory, paralysis and blindness. These problems might be permanent or they might come and go.

Most people with multiple sclerosis are diagnosed with the disease between the ages of 20 and 50.

It is estimated that about 400,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis, and one new case is diagnosed every hour.

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