AP NEWS

Families, friends walk for a cure at Walk MS: Aiken

April 13, 2019

Drizzling rain and cloudy skies didn’t deter many friends and families from gathering at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center on Saturday morning for the 16th annual Walk MS: Aiken 2019.

The walk is a fundraiser for the National MS Society, which seeks to find a cure for multiple sclerosis, a disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack the central nervous system.

Christine Posner of the National MS Society said the turnout was “awesome”, despite the fact that they were competing against the unpredictable weather and Master’s weekend in Augusta.

“People with MS are pretty resilient,” Posner said. “Nothing really stops us from doing what we need to do, and we’re here to find a cure.”

Posner said there were around 15-20 people present at the event who suffer from multiple sclerosis. She herself is one of them.

So is Patsy Fields, who normally does the walk in Augusta but decided to do it in Aiken this year instead.

“It’s easier for my peeps to get here,” Fields said.

Her “peeps” consisted of a large crowd of family and friends. Many people with multiple sclerosis that attended the event were surrounded by family, friends and caregivers who did the walk to support them. Brothers of Delta Sigma Phi at USC Aiken volunteered at the event as well.

“The Symptoms started the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2016,” Fields said. “I’m alright. You have flareups, there’s just good and bad days.”

Fields and her supporters wore t-shirts that said “Myelin and Smiling.” For people with multiple sclerosis, the immune system creates inflammation that damages myelin, a coating that protects nerves. The inflammation can also cause lesions on the nerves and permanent damage to nerve cells.

“It depends on where the damage starts,” Fields said. “Some people wake up one day, and they’re blind ... We’re here raising money to find a cure. They don’t know what causes it, and there’s no cure. So we’re trying to find a cure.”

There are treatments that can help people with multiple sclerosis, but Fields, Posner and people at the walk on Saturday are hopeful for a day when such treatments are no longer necessary.

“The (National) MS Society just came out with a study,” Posner said. “We now know there’s over 1 million people in the United States with multiple sclerosis. We originally thought it was 400,000 but it’s actually more than double. So we need to do events like this more than ever because we need to find a cure for those million-plus people.”

To learn more about the National MS Society or the disease, visit nationalmssociety.org.