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Rain hampers MS Walk at Antietam

Event canceled, but many walkers take on course anyway

Event canceled, but many walkers take on course anyway

April 23, 2006|By MARIE GILBERT

WASHINGTON COUNTY

With monuments shrouded in fog and a persistent rain chilling the air, it wasn't an ideal day for a walk at Antietam National Battlefield.

But that didn't keep more than 300 people from showing up Saturday to participate in a three-mile hike to raise funds to fight multiple sclerosis.

As the 10 a.m. start time approached, teams of walkers gathered on Mansfield Avenue at Antietam, donning ponchos and carrying umbrellas,

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But as they headed to the starting point, a clap of thunder meant a change in plans.

Because of weather conditions, organizers of the annual MS Walk made a decision to cancel the event for safety reasons.

"We can control a lot of things, but we can't control the weather," said Amanda Culler, marketing director for the National MS Society's Maryland Chapter.

Participants were encouraged to drop off their pledge money before leaving. But many people in attendance decided to complete the walk at their own risk.

"My sister and I have an aunt who passed away from MS," said Debbie Bakner of Smithsburg. "We also have friends who have MS. So we figured, rain or not, we were going to do this for their sakes."

"We're already wet, and we received a lot of pledges from people," said her sister, Lisa Quick, of Smithsburg. "We don't want to let them down."

According to Culler, about 650 people had registered for this year's walk. She estimated about half of that number showed up Saturday.

"The weather absolutely affected the turnout, but I'm amazed how many people did show up to support the fight against multiple sclerosis, despite the conditions," Culler said. "It's warming to see that people were willing to the brave the elements to be a part of this."

Last year, Culler said the walk at Antietam raised $75,000.

"Because of the rain, I expect the total will be smaller this year," she said. "But we're encouraging people to mail in their pledges, even if they weren't here today."

The Maryland chapter raised $625,000 from six walks held during April's first weekend, Culler said. The state chapter's goal is to raise $1 million this year.

The money raised goes to support local MS programs and services, and national research to find better treatment and a cure for MS, Culler said.

"Because of the people who support events such as the MS Walk, there is hope for the 400,000 Americans who live with multiple sclerosis," she said. "There is a lot of promise that research will soon reveal a cure."

Saturday's walk also featured a silent auction with items, including pottery and jewelry, donated by area businesses and artisans. All money from the auction went to the MS Society, Culler said.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the body's central nervous system. Symptoms and severity vary widely - from blurred vision to poor coordination and, in the worst cases, paralysis.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, in the last decade, at least a half-dozen drugs have been approved that have helped patients enjoy a relatively normal life.

"With the pledge money I secured for today's walk, I feel like I'm doing my part in finding a cure for MS," said Allison Myers of Hagerstown. "It may not be a fortune, but I really believe that every penny can help make a difference."

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