MS cause: Walking for those who can't
Seventeen teams of walkers hoisted their umbrellas on a rainy Sunday to raise funds for a disease that robs its victims of their mobility, cognitive skills and eventually their lives.
Park Rapids' first ever walk for multiple sclerosis was a success by any measure.
Cold rainy weather didn't deter dozens, as their wet tennis shoes hit the pavement of the Heartland Trail. In all, 200 walkers were registered.
"Before the walk started we had raised $6,200," said co-organizer Sue Monsrud. People had pledged $5,000 online.
"The national MS chapter gave us a $20,000 goal," Monsrud said wincing. "I thought, 'Are you kidding?'"
But that goal seemed a reality as more and more pledges came in and walkers cheerfully hit their strides.
Back in Heartland Park, DJ Tom Condiff had his sound system piping out music to keep spirits uplifted.
Just after 9 a.m. 21 Walmart volunteers showed up to mark trails with signs and help get the noon event off on the right foot.
"The weather is not cooperating," said co-organizer Denise Pederson, who oversaw the registration process from her wheelchair. Companion dog Mac sat quietly by, receiving pats of appreciation from walkers.
"MS mostly affects the central nervous systems of people from ages 20 to 40," Pederson said, adding because of new diagnostic tools, doctors are finding the disease in younger people.:
Pederson spoke firsthand of the symptoms she's suffered: the fatigue, the numbness, the eye problems, her cognitive abilities and the use of her legs.
"There are four injectable drugs that help the relapsing and remitting," she said. "They can slow down the progression" of MS.
And for each step the walkers took, there was hope the foundation will make similar progress in the eventual treatment and prevention of an unkind ailment that stops victims in their tracks.
'This was a good turnout for the weather," said Hubbard County dep. Bill Schleg. "It's for a good cause."
Because many with wet squeaky shoes, like Erin Witkin, were walking for a loved one or friend that can no longer walk for themselves.