Actor/comic Don Fanelli is walking Challenge Walk MS for his mom

Written by on September 2, 2015 at 3:02 pm

I was around 19 years old when I found out my mother was diagnosed with MS. I remember not really knowing how to react, except to be immediately concerned and start asking questions. What is it? Is there a cure? How will this affect her? What can we do?

I mean, it obviously sucks that she has MS. No one wants to see someone they love be uncomfortable or debilitated in any way. But, I think what my mother does particularly well, is not make it an issue. We never talk about it with any sense of gravity. Of course we ask her how she is feeling but she is not one to make it into something bigger than it needs to be. There are, as we know with MS, good days and bad days. But she rarely will give the disease the attention it craves. She dictates the power the disease has on her, not vice versa.

"She dictates the power the disease has on her, not vice versa."
Don Fanelli on his mom's MS

And that's how she lives. When you meet her you wouldn't really know something was wrong, unless she was feeling numb or going through an episode and even then she would probably diffuse the situation by being brutally honest and making you laugh. And that's what I take away from her. No beating around the bush. Be honest, and usually there is humor to be found in the humanity of it all. I was just so overwhelmed when she finally retired and I found out how many sick days (80) she racked up as a teacher's aide helping emotionally disabled children. I just thought that was some ridiculous work ethic and selflessness and I was just so damn proud. I think it goes back to trying to be in control of the disease, and not letting it be in control of you. By focusing on helping others, it put the attention on them, not you. Therefore my mother could focus on service and not pity, which I believe helped aid in controlling the disease in some way.

"I keep thinking about how I could complete the whole walk in about an hour if could just use a car."
Don Fanelli on walking 50 miles in Challenge Walk MS

It definitely has sunk in that walking 50 miles is pretty crazy. Who thought of this? I demand answers! I keep thinking about how I could complete the whole walk in about an hour if could just use a car. However, I realized that I live my life doing things that really get me out of my comfort zone and challenge me mentally, physically and spiritually. I think this will definitely be uncomfortable at times, but I know focusing on the cause and my mother will be my mental and spiritual fuel…and granola bars and dark chocolate will be my physical fuel. I know there are people with MS that do this walk and it is just overwhelmingly inspiring and flat out badass.

Don Fanelli is a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City and has a number of TV and movie credits to his name. This will be his first Challenge Walk MS. His team is "Donna Fanelli is a Badass".

Frequently asked questions about walk weekend

Written by on August 24, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Ahhh… the Cape Cod Sea Camps. Our home away from home during Challenge Walk MS weekend.

Friday's route will take us 20-miles from the Hyannis Village Green right up the driveway of the Sea Camps. You will be welcomed by a cheering squad and directed to the check-in tent. At the check-in tent, you will receive your cabin assignment and details on the evening's events.

Cape Cod Sea Camps

Welcome to the Cape Cod Sea Camps!


From there, the rest of the afternoon is yours to enjoy. Lounge in the sun with your team and a beer or a glass of wine. Make new friends under the Big Tent enjoying some snacks before dinner. Visit our incredible Medical Crew in the Medical Tent to soak your feet in an Epsom Salt Bath or to have your blisters tended to. Take a rest in your cabin. Get a massage.

After dinner, enjoy a slideshow of pictures taken by our talented photographers throughout the day, followed by our Evening Program. We strongly recommend attending the Evening Programs, especially on Saturday Night, which will contain our incredible Candlelight Ceremony.

(TIP: It can be dark at night, so you may want to bring a flashlight for getting around the Sea Camps after sundown.)

Below are some frequently asked questions:

Do we sleep in tents?

We do not. We sleep in cabins. The Sea Camps provides communal style sleeping accommodations with bunk beds. Every attempt was made by the NMSS to accommodate any special requests. (TIP: Bring ear-plugs — just in case you have a snoring neighbor.)

Cape Cod Sea Camps cabins

Welcome to your home for the weekend.

How does my luggage get to the Sea Camps?

On Friday morning, you will drop off your luggage at the designated luggage drop-off areas at Kalmus Beach or at the Hyannis Village Green. While on the route, your luggage will be transported to the Sea Camps and sorted by walker number. When you arrive at the Sea Camps, you will collect your bag and carry it to your cabin. For your convenience – and that of the crew members – please keep your luggage to under 40 lbs. If you need help carrying your luggage, find a crew member and they will be happy to help.

What are the bathroom / shower facilities like?

There are shared bathroom / shower houses located strategically around the Sea Camps. In addition, some of the cabins are equipped with bathrooms and showers. If there aren't any located in your cabin, there will be a bath house close by. (TIP: Bring flip-flops for the showers.)

Do I need to bring my own linens?

No, but you may choose to. The Sea Camps provides sheets, blankets, and pillows. They also provide towels – very small towels. Many participants bring a towel from home, and are glad they did.

Is there electricity?

Yes, all of the cabins have electricity. Don't forget your cell phone chargers!

Where do we eat?

A delicious breakfast, lunch (for crew and other participants at the Sea Camps mid-day), and dinner will be served at the Sea Camps Dining Hall. This is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with the new friends you will meet on the route. Make sure to note the start/end times for each meal which will be posted outside the Dining Hall — along with each day's menu.

Cape Cod Sea Camps dining

Cape Cod Sea Camps dining — mmm mmm good!

How do I get my luggage at the end of the weekend?

On Sunday morning, before you embark on the final 10-miles, you will drop off your luggage at a designated spot at the Sea Camps. While on the route, your luggage will travel back to Hyannis Village Green, for you to collect at the end of the Closing Ceremonies.

What if I have a question that was not answered here?

Don't hesitate to reach out to the Challenge Walk Staff at the National MS Society, Greater New England Chapter.

Thank you so much for your commitment to this event and to creating a World Free of MS.

See you bright and early in a few weeks at the Hyannis Village Green!

Amy has been participating in the MS Challenge Walk since 2002, in honor of her father, who was diagnosed the year before.  In 2007, she joined the Steering Committee and currently serves as co-chair. She feels blessed to be accompanied by such an amazing group of people in this fight against MS.  Amy lives in Lowell, Massachusetts with her husband, son, and daughter.

Selfie and notes to self

Written by on August 19, 2015 at 7:47 am

There's less than a month left until Challenge Walk MS: Cape Cod begins. Time to get it in gear! And no shortage of gear needed!

My "selfie" and "notes to self":

  • Break in my new sneaks ASAP
  • schedule all my training walk routes
  • review the downloadable CW "Travel and Information Guide"
  • send pledge reminders
  • update progress on my personal CW page
  • send thank yous from my Participant Center
  • keep walking, rain or shine
  • update my Facebook page with progress
  • dig out the CW "change of clothes bag" and don't over-pack again — well, sort of
  • replenish my survival kit: blister kit, muscle rub, OTCs, bug repellent, shark repellent??, sunscreen, caffeine, and of course chocolate
  • send pledge reminders — again
  • check in on final team logistics
  • check my pledge totals online, at least hourly
  • schedule post walk spa session
  • begin sleep walking — if necessary
  • plead for pledges — if necessary

Daily reminder: breathe deeply but keep moving — no sweat!

Michelle Dickson selfie

Michelle Dickson selfie


See you at the start line!

Michelle has been a staff member for the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society since 2000. She currently serves as the Director of Public Policy Advocacy and works with volunteer activists and lawmakers in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. She most recently lead the chapter's delegation at the 22nd annual MS Public Policy Conference in Washington D.C.

Society president is walking & talking

Written by on August 6, 2015 at 11:44 am

National Multiple Sclerosis Society President and CEO Cindy Zagieboylo will be participating in Challenge Walk MS Cape Cod this September. She shares her thoughts about what it means to her and also a training selfie:

I'm excited about the upcoming Challenge Walk MS on Cape Cod! The Challenge Walk MS is a wonderful metaphor for what it takes to be resilient: Setting goals (50 miles and raising funds), engaging others (some join your team and some support with financial contributions), receiving support (encouragement on the route, rest stops), and providing support (encouraging others makes us stronger). Much of what I have learned about resiliency has been from connecting with people affected by multiple sclerosis.

I plan to make new connections during the Challenge Walk MS and deepen the connections I already have. My team is called "50 Miles – All Smiles". Let's walk together!

Cindy Zagieboylo

Welcome to the team, Cindy Zagieboylo!

Cyndi began her career with the NMSS in 1985 at the Massachusetts chapter as a director of support services. She now serves as president and CEO of the national organization.

The guilt made her do it

Written by on July 29, 2015 at 10:04 am

Beth Keough of Franklin, Massachusetts, didn't set out to walk fifty miles on Cape Cod last fall because she needed the exercise, wanted the blisters, or even because she was raising money to find a cure for a disease she lives with every day — no, she did it out of guilt.

"I was tired of the guilt trips," she laughed.

The guilt trips were from her brother Tom Keough of Milford. Tom had been taking part in Challenge Walk MS on Cape Cod for five years and wanted his sister to join him. Challenge Walk MS is a three-day, 50-mile walk on Cape Cod that raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Beth was diagnosed with MS in 2006.

"I had difficulty walking," she remembered. "I thought it was just a pinched nerve."

Not long after Beth's diagnosis, Tom began participating in the 50-mile walk. Each year he would invite his sister to join him. Her schedule didn't allow her to do so — until last year.

"I always wanted to do it," said Beth. "I had gone to the Saturday night (candlelight) program, and it was such an inspiring thing to see."

Last year, it worked out she could train for and participate in Challenge.

"I decided I would sign up for it — and I was very glad I did."

Not that it was easy: just finding the time to do the long training walks was challenging to say the least.

"It was very difficult, but I did what I could," said Beth. "I definitely wish I had trained more. I did 33 miles (of the 50); it was definitely hard but I pushed through and did what I could."

For big brother Tom, it was great having his sister walking with him.

"It was fun having her out there, trading sarcastic comments and barbs, with her always making sure to keep me humble," he laughed. "I was also very proud at the way she pushed herself past pain and mental hurdles to go farther than she even thought she could. After some stumbles over previous years, it was awesome to see that the changes in treatment were working for her and helping her physically. It gave me a boost, knowing that they are making progress and it's a battle worth fighting. Today, we can walk together for everyone fighting the disease.

The guilt for Beth is gone — replaced by something else.

"A different emotion for me — pride."

Eileen is a Media Relations Specialist for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater New England Chapter.

Brother walks for sister with MS

Written by on July 27, 2015 at 10:03 am

When Tom Keough's sister Beth was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, he admits, he felt helpless and initially handled it poorly.

In an effort to do something positive, the Milford resident signed up for a one-day Walk MS in Worcester. He was immediately inspired by all the people he met, walking and working to find a cure for the disease affecting his sister.

Then Tom heard from a friend about the Challenge Walk MS on Cape Cod, a three-day, 50-mile journey to end MS forever. He immediately joined the friend's team, Bonnie's Believers.

"I jumped on board and started looking at different ways I could fundraise for the cause," said Tom. "Meeting so many amazing people along the way has only fueled my passion, and I walk for them as much as for Beth now."

Last year was Tom's sixth Challenge Walk MS, and the first time his sister Beth could join him.

"I was really excited to have her there to experience it as a walker and to meet others who understand what she is going through," said Tom. "Since I started walking, our family has always made Challenge Walk weekend an important time of year and it was cool that she could see it from start to finish. "

Beth and Tom will walk together again in this year's walk. Tom has high hopes for the weekend and beyond.

"My hope is to meet new friends to inspire us and reconnect with old friends who are stronger than they were before, whose treatments have been successful in controlling the disease's effects," he said.

"For my baby sister, I hope that she will continue to push her limits and know that her brother has her back, no matter what she wants to do in life. I hope that we can one day celebrate a cure and know that we were a part of making that happen."

Eileen is a Media Relations Specialist for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater New England Chapter.

Start training!

Written by on July 16, 2015 at 10:34 am

Hello, Challengers!

I wanted to check in with you and see the status of your training. We are now eight weeks out from the Challenge Walk MS, and I thought I'd give you some motivational tips and information to keep you motivated!

To train correctly for this event, you need to progress slowly and listen to your body at all times. Begin by adjusting first the frequency of you walking, then the duration and finally the intensity. The essential components of a good walking program are warm-up, walk, cool-down, stretching and strength training.

Five Good Reasons to Start Walking (besides the MS Challenge Walk)

  1. Reduces cholesterol levels
  2. Decrease high blood pressure
  3. Reduces risk of heart disease
  4. Increase energy
  5. Decreases stress

Five Ways to Incorporate Walking into Your Daily Life

  1. Walk your dog (or someone else's dog — with permission, of course!)
  2. Take a pre- or post-dinner walk. This is a great time to just be by yourself or take along your family for some quality time with them!
  3. Skip the elevator and take the stairs
  4. Do errands on foot, or park in the rear of the parking lot and walk to the store
  5. Walk to work — even if you telecommute, take a half-hour each morning to do a lap around the neighborhood, ending at your "office"

Five Steps to Take to be Successful

  1. Make a commitment to yourself
  2. Reserve time in your schedule
  3. Create a habit first
  4. Establish your long and short term goals
  5. Reward yourself when you meet your goals (a new bestseller, tickets to a concert or play, etc)

Fitbit Challenge

Are you training with your Fitbit? Be sure to participate in our Fitbit Challenge by joining our Fitbit Group. Join other walkers training and walk to the number one spot!!

You should have received all your materials, if not please let me know. Keep up the hard work and check out our website for additional training information, including our training schedule guide.

Take care,

Danielle Paonessa
Development Coordinator
National MS Society

Danielle Paonessa is a development coordinator with the National MS Society. She works on four MS Walks around the Boston area and helps with the Challenge Walk. Danielle has a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and became interested in working in the non-profit industry after interning with Make-A-Wish her senior year of college.

Challenge Walk MS training and new fundraising raffle!

Written by on May 23, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Can you believe it? It's almost the unofficial start of summer – Memorial Day weekend is tomorrow! And really, I am so happy it is. I know we have all had a tough winter, so let's celebrate this great weather by getting out and walking!

Make sure your check out the training schedule in our guide if you have not done so yet. Next week is the start of the 18-week training schedule! Do you have a Fitbit or other step tracking device? Log your steps and use that to help you with your training this year! Be on the lookout on how tracking your training can help you win a prize on Friday night of Challenge Walk MS!

Did you hear the news? We have a Patriots Grill to raffle off and help you with your fundraising! All raffle ticket sales will go directly to your personal goal for Challenge Walk MS. For information and how to get the raffle tickets to sell, check out the "Document Downloads" section of our website or click above!

OUR IMPACT: In 2014, the National MS Society invested $50 million to support 385 research initiatives worldwide. Each year, Challenge Walk MS: Cape Cod participants and Crew members raise close to $1 million dollars. You ALL have a direct impact in the latest MS research around the world, as well as helping people with MS regionally with day-to-day programs and assistance. THANK YOU for your continued efforts in fundraising to help us get closer to a cure!

Congratulations to our Top Fundraising Teams (so far!):

  1. The Lombardi Party – $21,001
  2. Team Hurri-Kane – $6,950
  3. Team Believers – $5,845
  4. Blister Buddies – $5,170
  5. Tommy's Team – $4,440

Kudos to our Top Individual Fundraisers (so far!):

  1. Chad Matthews – $8,048
  2. Kevin Lombardi – $6,995
  3. Krista Kane – $5,625
  4. Patricia Thorpe – $5,120
  5. Tom Olafsson – $4,440

Need advice or want to talk about your fundraising? Let me know! I am here to help!

Enjoy the nice weather that we all so deserve!

Aileen is the Development Manager for the Greater New England Chapter of the National MS Society responsible for the 2013 Challenge Walk. She has interned with the National MS Society at the Greater Delaware Valley Chapter with Program Events and is looking forward to working closely with the Steering Committee and Challenge Walk Teams to make this year's MS Challenge Walk a memorable one!