Metro-East Living

How do you find a cure for MS? Start by walking 30 miles.

The annual Challenge Walk MS will be this weekend at St. Charles Community College in Missouri. Organizers hope to raise awareness and more than $230,000 to fight the disease.
The annual Challenge Walk MS will be this weekend at St. Charles Community College in Missouri. Organizers hope to raise awareness and more than $230,000 to fight the disease.

A Sparta woman liked the idea of a challenge a few years ago, and took up the one offered by a postcard.

“And I thought, ‘well heck I can do this...,’” Clara Taylor said of the Challenge Walk MS, which at that time was 50 miles over two-and-a-half days to raise money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis.

Clara lost seven toenails on that first walk 14 years ago, but she’s been back every year since to raise money for the advocacy of and research to fight Multiple Sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system. This year’s one-and-a-half day event is about 30 miles and starts at 6 a.m. Saturday at the St. Charles Community College in Missouri. It is an annual fundraiser for the Gateway Area Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

It is a challenge. We walk in the rain, in severe heat — but when I see people out there (with Multiple Sclerosis) and stumbling, you want to push yourself.

Clara Taylor, Challenge Walk participant

The chapter expects to raise about $230,000 from the event, says Amy Klueter-Thomas, the manager of Walk MS who lives in Edwardsville. First-time participants are asked to raise $500 for one day or $1,000 for two days. Returning participants are asked to raise more; money is not due on the day of the walk.

Clara had not known anyone with MS at that first walk, but says the event is “really close to my heart now.” She has raised $2,500 for this year’s walk. Her daughter and granddaughter have also joined her at the event. Last year, the 19 members of Clara’s team raised nearly $50,000.

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Amanda Hornbostel, left, Clara Taylor and Carley Taylor will participate in the Challenge Walk again. Clara got her daughter, right, and granddaughter involved in the event about four years ago. Provided photo

“It is a challenge,” she said. “We walk in the rain, in severe heat — but when I see people out there (with Multiple Sclerosis) and stumbling, you want to push yourself.”

Amy said there are different types of MS including relapsing-remitting MS, which about 80 percent of sufferers have. There is no cure. Until recently, only those who had relapsing-remitting MS had any kind of medicinal relief. In March, the Food and Drug Administration approved Ocrevuf, the first drug for primary progressive

“It was a huge event in the world of MS for this to happen ... gives hope that they could possibly slow down or reverse” the disease, Amy said.

A number of doctors and researchers who specialize in MS are based in St. Louis, she said. Most of the money raised at MS events goes to research, she said.

Amy is among those with relapsing-remitting, which she found out in 2006 after she lost her eyesight for a time. The diagnosis was made after her sight returned. She said lost and returned eyesight is a common symptom of MS, as is the feeling of compression across the arms or torso.

“MS is a disease of the central nervous system, everyone experiences the disease in a different way,” she said.

“Some who have MS on one end of the spectrum, you wouldn’t know they had a disability ... others who do have physical disability with the disease, and they want to persevere in their own right (on the walk). They take the walk, they fall... they don’t want your help, they want your support,” she said.

The walk offers a “very structure, safe, organized environment” for all walkers, Amy said, and those participating both days can stay on campus. There is an event Saturday evening that is open to anyone in which people share what the walk means to them and why they participate.

Clara said the Saturday evening speaker at her first walk helped solidify her commitment to raising money. The man shared his reaction, that he had to “fix” it, when his daughter first told him she had MS.

“He knew he couldn’t fix it unless he got out and tried to raise those funds,” Clara said.

At a glance

This is what you need to know about the Challenge Walk:

  • What: A two-day, 31-mile walk to raise money for the Gateway Area Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • When: June 3 and 4
  • Where: St. Charles Community College, Missouri
  • Who has MS: The National Multiple Sclerosis Society says there are about 400,000 in the United States, although there is no national database. That number is self-reported to the society.
  • How to help: Register at St. Charles Community College at 6 a.m. June 3, or donate at http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Chapters/MOS
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