Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central-nervous system that disrupts the flow of information in the brain, and between the brain and the body.
Its effects are unpredictable, and can be crippling.
But the National Multiple Sclerosis Society raises money each year for medical research on the disease, and to provide treatment and support for the nearly 1 million people living with MS in the United States.
And Saturday, more than 700 people showed up at Hagerstown Community College to help.
HCC hosted the annual Walk MS: Hagerstown this year, and local director Amanda Glenn said organizers hoped to raise between $75,000 and $80,000 for the society during the event.
Walkers had their choice of a short one-mile hike or a longer three-mile walk.
“We decided to offer the one-mile for people living with MS and for families with small children,” Glenn said.
Dozens of teams traversed routes through the HCC campus, many clad in T-shirts empblazoned with team names representing a loved one living with the disease.
Elena McCormick and Solomon Hutchins of Hagerstown were walking in honor of Hutchins’ mother, Monica. Hutchins said she has been living with MS for at least 15 years.
He does the walk every year, he said, and this year, Monica’s team had about a dozen walkers.
He particularly enjoyed the scenery at HCC this year, he noted, with flowers and statuary “that really motivates me.”
“It’s nice to see all these people coming together for the same cause,” McCormick said.
She liked the weather a little better than last year, she said.
“It was pouring rain last year,” she recalled.
Sisters Erica Baker of Hagerstown and Julie Baker of Shippensburg, Pa., walked the route with their dog, Cheyenne, for their mother, Sharon Olson of Shippensburg. Olson has had the disease for 22 years and is wheelchair-bound, they said.
“Seeing all the people here is just amazing,” Erica said. “It’s amazing how many people MS has touched.”
Cheyenne was “lovin'” the walk, she said.
“She’s getting all kinds of attention,” she said.
Ten walkers comprised “Team Katie,” walking in memory of Katie Leznar, who died in 2013. Her daughter, Megan Leznar, and Megan’s best friend, Brailey Butts, were among them.
“We started walking in 2010,” Megan said. The team raises more than $500 each year, and sometimes as much as $3,000.
The team is mostly family members and friends, she said, and they start organizing as soon as details for each year’s walk are released.
“We walk because we want to ensure there’s a brighter future for people living with MS and their families, and to remember people like my mom,” Megan said. “We hope there’s a cure one day, and we’re walking for that.”
Julie Upham of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society told the crowd that last year, walkers from around the country raised more than $1 billion. Also last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis.