Annual walk supports people living with MS, raises funds for research, treatment

By Claudia Carlson

Staff Writer

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Walk MS: Pensacola, which took place Saturday, April 9, at Bayview Park, was an event filled with hope. The purpose of the annual walk is to raise funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis.

“The National MS Society has been involved in Northern Florida for about 27 years and has been coming to Pensacola for 15 years,” Courtney Buchman, Walk MS manager, said. “We are the No. 1 funders of MS research in the world. We do this through events and our financial assistance. We have other events like MS Service Day, as well as Walk MS, that help us raise money.”

About 450 people registered for the walk. Participants chose either a one-mile walk or a 5k. Though there was no fee to participate, walkers were encouraged to raise money to donate to the National MS Society. If at least $125 was raised, the participant received a 2016 Walk T-shirt, with other prizes for additional fundraising. Before the walk began, teams raised more than $20,000 of the $26,000 goal, Buchman said. Donations for this event are being taken until May 13. You can donate online through the website.

Some of the people who participated in the walk are currently living with MS. Others were there with loved ones fighting the disease and some were there who just wanted to support the cause.

“I was diagnosed with MS in July of 2015,” participant Josh Lyons said. “I am 32 years old and a police officer. One day I was at the shooting range and I couldn’t shoot, I just couldn’t see. I was in the Marine Corps for five years, so there was no reason why I couldn’t shoot. I knew something was wrong.”

“I went to see my doctor and at first I was diagnosed with vertigo. Then things started to get worse and I was walking like a drunk man even though I hadn’t had a drink,” Lyons said. “I am on two different types of medication, one to deal with my MS and another one to help with my walking. I have good days and bad days; today has not been the best, but I was able to do the walk for a little bit at least. This is my first year living with MS, so this is my first year at the walk or anything with MS, but my wife has been pushing to get involved with the National MS Society.”

Lyons had a great support system around him — Team Lyons, which was the No. 1 fundraising team as of the beginning of the walk with more than $4,000. They had T-shirts, signs and even a tent.

Treatments and medications are being researched and improved by the National MS Society to help ensure that each person living with MS can live a quality life.

“I work for Genzyme, and we have two MS medications that are used on patients today,” Pamela Woodson said. “Lemtrada, which is our newest drug, is an IV therapy for relapsing MS. Aubagio is the other, which is an oral agent that is taken once a day.”

For information on the National MS Society, call 1-800-344-4867 or visit the website.