Share a selfie for MS Awareness

During MS Awareness Week, March 3–9, let's band together and wear our National MS Society apparel for social media solidarity!

Snap a "selfie" showing your orange — maybe it's a Walk MS t-shirt, or a Bike MS jersey, or even an orange bracelet or bandana – and share your pictures on the National MS Society, Greater New England Chapter's Facebook/Twitter accounts.

Details:

  • Check out the MS New England homepage and join our social media sites (Facebook and/or Twitter).
  • Snap a "selfie" wearing your National MS Society apparel and orange! If you happen to meet up with or a team member, take a photo of the two of you or with your entire group! You can make the photo as creative as you like!
  • Post the picture to your social media sites and spread the awareness of multiple sclerosis.
    • Facebook — post the picture on National MS Society Greater, New England Chapter's Facebook page and use #wearMSswag. Tag the location of any events you participate in too like MS Challenge Walk Cape Cod!
    • Twitter – tweet @MS_GreaterNewEngland and use #wearMSswag.

Please share this initiative with your team members, family, and friends. Let's see how many posts we can get to spread the awareness of multiple sclerosis next week!

Looking forward to seeing all of your faces next week!

MS Challenge Walk 2014 promo

The MS Challenge Walk is a difficult experience to capture. How do you explain to someone what would make you walk fifty miles — not just one year, but every year? How do you put into words the hope and love that come with strained muscles and flowing tears? It doesn't make sense, and it's almost impossible to convey.

Yet just as we set out to do the impossible by walking fifty miles, so too does the crew of Red Dirt Productions tackle the challenging task of capturing and sharing the experience. For years, Brenda Neary and her crew have come to Cape Cod to volunteer their video production skills to produce commercials based on our walk. They have now unveiled their promotion for MS Challenge Walk 2014:

Three minutes may be the perfect length for the more attentive television generation, but in this age of tweets and Facebook posts, it may tax one's attention span. So here's a 30-second version:

Please share this video on Facebook or put it on Twitter to tell all your friends about this amazing experience!

What I learned in 2013

In each of my five years of walking the MS Challenge Walk, I've learned something new. Last year in particular was a very eye opening year for me and the rest of my amazing team, Sweaty Already/Sweat'n for Susan, named after my courageous, beautiful, strong mom, who has been living and learning how to manage her MS since 2003.

Last year, we were coming off of a very busy 2012 and an already busy start to 2013. I was married in October 2012; my first adorable nephew was born in January 2013; and my twin sister got married in March 2013. To say we had a busy couple of months is an understatement. But throughout that time I was excited to think what more I could do in 2013 to help raise funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis. We did decently with fundraising in 2012, but not nearly as well as our team wanted. But the adrenaline of those busy months led to us having an "aha" moment in spring 2013 of how to jumpstart our fundraising.

Team Sweaty Already

Team Sweaty Already


The MS Challenge Walk is a great place to connect with others who are affected by this disease, but it's also a fundraiser to find a cure and help those living with MS now. People fundraise in different ways: letter-writing campaigns, social media, direct asks, email outreach, restaurant nights and stand alone events are all great. The key is finding something you enjoy doing and something that your friends and family will enjoy either participating in or helping with. Our first three years of fundraising, we solely relied on letter-writing campaigns and a few small fundraisers at a generous local paint-your-own pottery shop in North Reading. I knew I could do more, though — I just needed to figure out what.

Each year my husband Brian and I host a summer cookout for all our friends and family. We have a rousing volleyball game, a fire pit, ladder ball, Polish horseshoes, music, cornhole boards (bean bag toss), and more. We always enjoy this get-together, and here was my "aha" moment: why don't I organize a cornhole tournament? I enjoy playing, my friends and family enjoy playing, I know how to organize brackets, and I knew it would be fairly easily to execute and enjoyable for me. So we hit the ground running: we secured a location that was amazing to work with, the Knights of Columbus in Wilmington; and we reached out to local restaurants for food donations and newspapers for publicity; and we hung flyers all throughout Wilmington and the surrounding towns to spread the word.

Cornhole tournamentIt worked: come the day of Bags and Beers (that's the name of the event), we had 32 teams, over 25 raffle items, donated food, and volunteers to help, too. That's another tip: if you are planning an event, remember to get volunteers to take charge of certain areas of the event — that way, you aren't doing everything on the day of! That one event brought in close to $4,000. We even purchased custom cornhole boards that we can reuse each year.

For me, this was an easy event to organize since I enjoyed doing it and had experience with the subject matter. If I'd had to plan something I was unfamiliar with, such as a a golf tournament (what's a handicap?), or something that I am not really interested in, it would be harder. That is my main tip for anyone interested in starting an event: to increase your fundraising for the MS Challenge Walk, pick something you enjoy doing.

Sweat dries, blisters heal

Sweat dries, blisters heal:
suck it up for MS!

My execution wasn't flawless, though — "mistakes were made"! I was so excited to be planning this amazing event that I completely neglected to train for the walk! Wow, did the 2013 MS Challenge Walk do a number on my toes and feet! The National MS Society Greater New England Chapter provides training tips and even a suggested training calendar with how much you should be walking as the Challenge Walk gets closer. Use it! Also, try to buy your sneakers ahead of time and really break them in — same with socks. One walking tip that typically works for me is changing my sneakers at lunch. Just like with your change-of-clothes bag, it helps to have a slightly different shoe halfway through the day — different fabrics and styles of sneaker allow parts of your foot that might have been irritated to breathe.

So what did I learn in 2013? That planning a fundraiser isn't as hard as you think, as long as it's something you enjoy; that people will donate items and food to your event, all you need to do is ask and get over that first no, and that it's REALLY important to train; but blisters really do heal (eventually). See you all in September!

Challenge yourself to walk in Challenge Walk

I was diagnosed with MS on November 5, 2007. It took a solid year for me to fully comprehend what the words "you have MS" meant. Having experienced a multitude of unexplained neurological symptoms leading to my diagnosis, my first reaction was one of relief. I'd convinced myself I had a brain tumor. A year later, after spending many hours reading about MS and experiencing two flairs, I began to realize just what this diagnosis might mean for my future.

I decided to volunteer at the National MS Society offices in Waltham and quickly found myself surrounded by an incredible gathering of people — positive, upbeat people determined to make a difference. And it was here that I was introduced to the Challenge Walk.

I remember my first discussion with Brenda Barbour, Associate Vice President of Volunteer Development at the Greater New England Chapter — aka, Mama Hen — about the walk. "Let me get this straight," I said. "Almost 600 people and several hundred volunteers get together to walk for 3 days and 50 miles on Cape Cod? And many of these walkers and volunteers have MS?" "That's right," Brenda said with her trademark wink and southern drawl. Brenda assured me that, should I accept this challenge, the experience would change my life.

And change my life it did. My first Challenge Walk was September of 2011. Brenda was right. The experience had a deep and profound impact on me and I have been at every walk since. That's when I learned that bravery is not the absence of fear — it is action in the face of fear!

The Derick family

Walking is a family activity in the Derick household!


At Challenge Walk, I met a group of incredibly committed, compassionate and tough people! These walkers and volunteers are truly a part of a large and ever-expanding family. Multiple sclerosis is the rallying call for this event; it is the cause for which this family pulls together. But the result is much more than raising money for a cure! The result is everlasting, deep, lifelong friendships. Through these friendships, I have learned to face my fears and act!

Over the years, I have met countless people in the Challenge Walk community who have shown by example that those of us living with MS do not have to relinquish control of our lives to this disease. I have learned from this community to make a choice not to be defined by this disease. In joining them I joined a group with a sense of purpose.

When you register for Challenge Walk, you agree to meet several challenges. First, the fundraising: $1,500 is the minimum required for each walker. Then there's the physical challenge. I can tell you that 50 miles is a long, long way to walk, with or without MS! The final challenge is time. As a walker or volunteer, you agree to give up an entire three-day weekend in September. You also need to prepare by training, attending meetings, raising money …. the list goes on and on!

It would be easy to sit on the sidelines complaining about a lack of resources. "I can't raise $1,500 — I don't know enough people!" "I could never participate in this, not with my physical limitations!" "I just don't have time to commit to something like this!"

But the Challenge Walk is a community founded on resourcefulness! Fundraising is done with incredible creativity. Folks come together to host fundraisers, from comedy nights to cocktail parties, from harbor cruises to pub crawls — the list is seemingly endless! On walk weekend, you will see people overcome incredible physical challenges to participate in the walk. Whether wheeling the route, using canes, walkers or other mobility aids, or simply walking until their body has had enough, all these people choose to participate any way they can.

Finally, throughout the year, walkers and volunteers find the time (or make the time) to engage in the year-round preparation for the walk's weekend. As I found out first-hand, once you participate in one Challenge Walk, you will be back. It is just that powerful of an experience!

If you haven't joined this community yet — what are you waiting for? There is plenty of room for you here and an entire community ready to help you engage. Come on out and join the family!

Tweeting live from MS Challenge Walk 2013

We're pleased to welcome committee member Jennifer Rebecca Yates back to our Twitter account. As she did last year and the year before, Jen will be tweeting live from the Cape Cod Rail Trail using the official @MSChallengeWalk account starting tomorrow. This means that throughout the weekend, you or your friends and family back home can experience the event live in real time by visiting this blog to see short text messages and even photos from the route. All our tweets will also appear on the MS Challenge Walk's Facebook page!

Jen won't be the only Twitter user at MS Challenge Walk; you can follow our list of walkers to get even more perspectives. Their tweets will also be included in the below stream (but not on our Facebook page). Will you be tweeting? Let us know, and use hashtag #MSCW (short for MS Challenge Walk) in your own tweets!

[The live tweet has concluded! Please see Jen's archive of tweets for the full story.]