CARLSBAD — The 21st annual Walk MS fundraiser took place at Legoland on May 1. About 3,500 walkers participated in the event early Sunday morning. Energy was in the air as the gathering of walkers and volunteers in multicolored T-shirts cheered and hollered while readying for the 2-mile walk.
The event sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Pacific South Coast Chapter raised more than $200,000 in last year’s event. The fundraising goal this year was $300,000.
“It’s a good cause, I feel the energy and the spirit of the walk,” said 16-year-old Kelsey Taylor. “It feels like a family.” It was Taylor’s first time walking with her team Pacific Pain Medicine “Pain Busters.” The 76-member team was one of the larger teams to participate.
The Pain Busters, formed by the Wailes family, started off small but last year the team raised more than $12,000 and had more than 70 walkers. Shannon Wailes, who is participating in the event for her seventh year, said each year they set a higher fundraising goal. The team’s target goal this year was $18,000. Wailes’ mother passed away from the disease two years ago and the whole family walks in her memory.
“We all lost our voices,” Wailes said. The team could be heard chanting and cheering loudly from quite a distance during the course of the event. Last year the team won the “Most Spirited” award and they hope to win again this year.
“The event is really fun, it was my third time doing the event and there is even more energy this year,” Vanessa Klosterman, who walked with the Pain Busters, said. “I will do it again next year.”
Klosterman said she was motivated to participate in the event this year by her friend Shelby Wailes, sister to Shannon. Most of the team was comprised of teens who know the Wailes family and some of them have been participating for several years.
Many teams walk with or for a person in their lives who has been affected by the disease. Team captain Deanna Lynn, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in April 2004, brought her whole family to the event. When she found out that she had MS she said it altered her life completely.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Walk MS motto is to “walk to create a world free of MS.” Lynn’s group, Team D-termined, walked with the word “hope” printed in bold letters on the front of their T-shirts to celebrate hope for the future.
Top fundraisers include Samuel Brusco, who raised $46,070; Lynn Gordon, who raised more than $17,000; and Team Dick Gordon and Betty’s Builders who raised more than $60,000.
The walk would not be possible without volunteers and staff cheering the walkers on at every turn. A local cheerleading group encouraged walkers to show good spirit for the trek ahead by performing cheers adapted for the event. Miss Teen Pride of Vista, Jordyn Kogler, and Miss Pride of Vista, Kathrine Wyatt showed up at the finish line cheering along with princesses from their court.
Linda Ingram, senior volunteer resource manager of the walk, said she loves her job. “We get to do something bigger than ourselves and help people,” she said. Ingram has been a staff member for more than 14 years.
More than 400,000 Americans live with MS and 2.5 million people have
been affected worldwide. According to the chapter website, MS interrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body and it stops people from moving. Every hour in the United States, someone is newly diagnosed with MS, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system.
The society advocates for change, helps people who live with MS lead more fulfilling lives and raises funds for research. May 25 is the celebration of World MS Day. The society encourages people to visit to share experience and build awareness.
Pacific South Coast Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society can be contacted at (800) 486-6762 or MSpacific.org.