- FUN FEATURES
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The threat of rain didn’t deter the hundreds who came to Cheshire High School Sunday morning for the annual Travelers Walk MS fundraising event.
Hordes of people, some pushing baby strollers, others holding tightly to their dogs, walked in the dry, albeit brisk, weather on April 18. The annual Walk MS event is a signature fundraiser for the MS Society. Multiple Sclerosis, a disease for which this is no cure, effects 400,000 people in the United States. In Connecticut alone, more than 6,000 live with MS. Some of the more advanced cases of MS leave people unable to walk, but people walk for them to hopefully, someday, find a cure for the disease. Between the event on Sunday and print time, nearly 200 more people would have been diagnosed with MS, according to statistics released by the MS Society.
Tara Liscombe was diagnosed with MS in 2005 when she was 24 years old. Now 29, Liscombe formed Team Tara Lynne and walks with a group of her supporters in Cheshire to “support ongoing scientific research” and “finding a cure” for MS.
“I think Cheshire is the best. It’s a beautiful course” she said. “The support and enthusiasm is overwhelming and I have met many wonderful people and teams while walking here.”
While she admits that MS has affected her life in “many ways,” it has taught her to be “more positive.” She said that her MS diagnosis was “just one stop on the road of life” and is part of who she is, but “does not define who I am.” She insisted she has been able to enrich her life by working with the MS Society and others at events like the MS walk.
“Life is too short to focus on the negatives. I constantly remind myself how lucky I am, believe in a happy and healthy future and, tell myself that, no matter what, things could be worse,” Liscombe stated. “I would tell people who have recently been diagnosed, or who are diagnosed in the future, that even though it may not seem so at the very minute you hear the words, ‘you have multiple sclerosis,’ everything happens for a reason and this is your opportunity to make a difference.”
Lisa Gerrol, president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter, said that, once again, the Cheshire Walk MS was the “single largest walk in the state.” Residents and people from neighboring communities come to Cheshire each year and it is expected that, as funds continue to pour in, it will exceed the goal of $221,000 for the site itself.
“Cheshire residents are caring, charitable, and dedicated to the fight against multiple sclerosis,” Gerrol said. “As a result of this strong support, we’re optimistic that we’ll hit our goal and fund local programs and vital research.”
Janelle Wilk remembers the fall of 2002 like it was yesterday. She was a student at the University of Connecticut and, one morning, she woke up and couldn’t see out of her right eye. She went to her doctor who sent her to a specialist, who sent her to get an MRI, which eventually revealed lesions on her brain. She was put on medicine and her vision was restored, but she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which she knew nothing about.
“It was definitely a scary experience and it took me a while to process the entire ordeal,” Wilk explained. “Since then, I’ve become more dedicated to the annual Walk MS event and my team, the J Walkers.”
Wilk, a Watertown resident, has attended the Cheshire walk since 2007. It was in that year where she “had a flare up” and couldn’t walk or talk, but “knock on wood, I was okay.” The first few years after her MS diagnosis, Wilk said she “needed time to process” what was going on. Since she was in the UConn area, Wilk walked first in nearby Manchester but, despite the event’s great intentions, the locale wasn’t exactly ideal.
“You are practically walking on the highway,” Wilk said. “I like coming to Cheshire. It’s a longer drive, but it’s much better. It’s a great site. I can bring my dogs, walk on the trail, it’s really good.”
Wilk and her team were formed out of her MS diagnosis, but she knows that she walks not just for herself, but for the thousands living with MS. While she feels “down” sometimes, she said events like Walk MS helps her move forward.
“I know that I’m not just the only one with MS,” Wilk said. “To be there, to see the other people with MS, it’s nice to talk with them and support them.”