By Lisa Capobianco
Preschool children and staff members of Giggles and Grins Child Care Center held a walkathon last week to support and raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
About 20 children and seven staff members gathered together with their orange shirts, walking a mile around the neighborhood with flags bearing the sign, “I Walk for MS.”
For Amy Nelson who works at the child center, the walkathon hits home. She created the walkathon a few years ago after her younger brother Kyle suffered from MS at age 15.
“When he was diagnosed, he kind of woke up with blindness in his left eye, and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so my parents took him to the hospital and…it was just tests after tests,” Nelson said.
Doctors diagnosed Kyle with MS when they discovered lesions in his brain. From blindness to a lost of balance to feeling “jelly-like,” Nelson said her brother suffered from a variety of symptoms. But six years later after receiving infusion therapy, Kyle’s symptoms disappeared.
“He is lucky he has no new lesions when he gets MRIs,” Nelson said. “He has not gotten symptoms in over a year.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MS is a disease of the central nervous system that fluctuates with symptoms and remissions over a span of years. The CDC reports that between 2 and 5 percent of cases start before age 16.
Although Kyle suffered from the disease at a young age, Nelson said MS has made her family stronger. Nearly a year after the diagnosis, Kyle decided to become a counselor at a camp in Rhode Island geared toward children with MS.
“MS made me grow up and view life completely different,” Kyle said. “MS helped me view a healthy life as a gift as an adult, which most teens take for granted.”
Today Kyle continues to stay fit and healthy even though he still receives infusions four times a year. He played football throughout high school, and now he participates in intramurals at UConn.
“I am a normal college student that loves life and stays active through sports,” Kyle said. “MS does not slow me down anymore.”
After the walkathon, Nelson and her colleagues said they raised $270 in donations from parents.
“They’ve been great…with their support, and helping raise funds and awareness for the cause,” Nelson said.
Nelson’s colleagues have also demonstrated their support for MS. When Nelson approached them about holding a walkathon to support MS, they responded to the cause immediately.
“We all love a good cause, so we all decided to pitch in and donate out time,” said Sandi Ritchie, a school instructor.