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A heartfelt thanks for all those who DO!

Written by on September 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Participants in the past several years of MS Challenge Walk have borne witness to a most incredible and inspiring individual: Carolyn Rossi, who wheels herself up, down, and across Cape Cod in pursuit of a cure for multiple sclerosis. I spoke with Carolyn last week in an interview that introduced many walkers to a person whose drive and determination are nearly unparalleled.

But it's not just her fellow walkers who Carolyn inspires. Her husband, Brian, is on the bicycle support crew, and two years ago shared with us how he marvels at his wife's strength. This year, he has these thoughts about the importance his fellow crew play not just to the walk as a whole, but to the intensely personal experience that is his and Carolyn's MS Challenge Walk. Here is Brian in his own words.

The MS Challenge Walk is one of those annual events that occur when, regardless of anything else going on in our lives or around us, we can come together as one united family to fight for a great cause! Year after year, people make the trek to the Cape and lace up their shoes, pump up their tires, purchase ample amounts of Body Glide products, and tough it out for three long hard days. We arrive on Thursday evenings and for the next hour or more, we embrace and do lots of catching up with our "family" members that we haven't seen in about a year. It is truly awesome!

I'd like to personally thank each and every person and team that participates in this event. I'd like to especially thank all of the unsung heroes of the MS Walk that work behind the scenes or do something as simple as handing out candy, bananas, granola bars, water, gatorade, etc at the many rest stops. If any one of these important people were missing, the event just would not be the same.

I'd like to extend a special thanks to my fellow bike crew members. First, thank you for welcoming me in to the fold year after year. Most important, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the silent and for some, not so silent guardians to my love, Carolyn Rossi. Each year, one or more of you ease my worries about her whereabouts by making a friendly cell phone call to give me here current location. This year, Todd called me on Saturday to let me know that she was ready for lunch, and if I didn't get there soon with her lunch, she'd "rip my head off!" When I arrived at the welcome center leading up to the lunch stop, he was right there with her keeping her safe.

Carolyn Rossi on Setucket Hill (2012)

Rob L. personally had the honor of escorting her up Setucket Road (Hill) this year as she took on a challenge like none other before. This year she challenged herself to walk up as much of that hill as she could and Rob was by her side each step of the way keeping her safe. In years past, Billy has been by her side keeping her safe and challenging her to push even further. To the other bike crew members who have assisted Carolyn this year and in years past, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for protecting her and being her guardians on bikes. This year, I even saw Dave personally escorting her down the streets of Brewster with his white motorcycle with the trailer attached. Thank you all so much for selflessly giving of your time and attention and for loving Carolyn!

I don't know if many people can understand this or not, but being Carolyn's husband is a tough place to be on the Walk weekend. For me, the walk is solely about Carolyn and her successes and milestones. I try to stay in the background as much as I can. It's not about me! However, nothing blesses me more as her husband than to hear from all of the folks along the route that speak with me privately about how much she inspires them. When I roll in to rest stops on my bike and people see me, they ask, "How is that lovely wife of yours doing" or "Is Carolyn on her way"? This is so moving to witness year after year.

Many of the friends I have made at the MS Challenge Walk have shared with me that seeing Carolyn push herself every year, as difficult as it is, is the high point of their year. I have to agree with that sentiment!!

As awesome as this event is, as much as I love all of you, my true heart's desire is that we didn't have to do this anymore! I'm personally SICK OF IT!!!! Multiple sclerosis took the life of my grandmother — my best friend, someone whom I deeply loved. Today it continues its pesky mission in my wife's life, someone whom I love even more. I see and hear about all of the other "MS Walk Family" members of mine who have been afflicted by it, and it just makes my heart SICK!

So, let's face it folks: the reality is that MS is still around — for now. It's time for people to stop saying and to start doing! It's still attacking people we love! Let's work together in 2013 to bond together AS ONE TEAM to create a world FREE OF MS! Who's with me?

Brian, a resident of Central Massachusetts, has participated for several years in the MS Challenge Walk as a member of the bike support crew.  Not only does his wife Carolyn have MS, but his grandmother had MS and eventually died from complications related to it. Brian is best known to as the provider of tropical flavored Starbursts and Jolly Rancher candies along the trail.

Talking with Carolyn Rossi

Written by on September 3, 2012 at 9:00 am

Carolyn RossiWelcome to MS Challenge Talk, a weekly audio recording that introduces you to the people and stories behind MS Challenge Walk.

This week, host Ken Gagne speaks with Carolyn Rossi, captain of Walk With Wheels. When Carolyn was diagnosed with MS thirteen years ago, her friends wanted to do something to help. But how could she let them do something she wasn't willing to do herself? She signed up for MS Challenge Walk — and has been tackling it from her red wheelchair every year since. The only help she accepts is knowing her husband is on bicycle crew and her son Ethan is cheering her on; with that support, she tackles every hill herself, refusing to lie down on the job, determined to see a day when there is no more need for this event.

This is the final episode of MS Challenge Talk. Thank you to all our guests and listeners for having been a part of this wonderful series of interviews!

Welcome to MS Challenge Talk, a weekly audio recording that shares the stories and experiences of veterans of those who have walked three days and 50 miles to bring the world closer to a cure for multiple sclerosis, courtesy the National MS Society's MS Challenge Walk. You can subscribe to the show for free in Apple iTunes!

An inspiring revolution

Written by on September 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm

The MS Challenge Walk invites us to take action to create a world free from multiple sclerosis. The event in turn inspires us with the people and acts that we witness along the trail.

Last year, bicycle crewman Craig Thorpe was inspired by seeing Carolyn wheeling up a hill and insisting on doing it herself in what she called her "Rocky moment."

Carolyn's inspiration strikes close to home for her husband, Brian, who was on this year's bike crew. He submitted this guest blog post relating his experience on the MS Challenge Walk.

Many of you may not recognize my name; I am the extremely honored and privileged husband of Carolyn Rossi.  Carolyn is that very joyful and inspiring trooper who wheels the MS Challenge Walk in her red wheelchair, A.K.A "Red", each year for the last five years.

I volunteer on the bike support crew each year and get to work with a great team of guys and gals!

For me, this year included one of my most encouraging and proud moments.  I was completely amazed to see how much the MS Challenge Walk family actually loves my wife and how inspired they are by her determination to push through the burn and pain and fight this disease head on!

Whether it was a casual walker passing by and saying "Great job, you are so inspiring," motorcycle safety crew members embracing her with huge hugs and telling her they loved her, or everyone knowing to queue up "Eye of the Tiger" as she passes by — it is so amazing the love and encouragement that you all bestow upon such a wonderful and inspiring woman! 

As Carolyn exited the second stop on Sunday — the one with the Dunkin' Donuts theme — she literally took a "Dunkie Junkie" t-shirt off someone's back, saying to me "This stop means that freakin' hill is right around the corner!"  Carolyn pushed and pushed up Setucket Hill that morning, keeping her team members close by but not letting them dare touch her wheelchair, with "Eye of the Tiger" blasting. Medical crew bicyclist Billy, several walkers, and fellow bike crew members made comments to me like "She's really gonna do this!" "She's killin' this thing!" "She's haulin' it!" I was such a proud husband!  Sure enough, with each and every push, she inched closer and closer to the peak of that hill.  At the top was one of the motorcycle safety team members saying "You go, girl! I have a 'wow' sticker for you up here — just a little farther!"

Many may not know that I lost my beloved grandmother to complications related to MS. She was not only my grandmother but also a very close friend; I loved her so much!  Part of my heart truly believes that Carolyn was placed in my life to carry the torch for people like my grandmother.  My grandmother would be so proud and honored that her grandson was blessed with such an amazing and courageous wife, and her great-grandson with such an inspiring mother.

Thank you to all for walking this past weekend and making the event a success!  Thank you to each and every person who shared a kind word or thought with my wife.  Just as each wheel and push Carolyn makes inspires all of you, each step you take encourages and inspires Carolyn.  It's what makes her go go go!

Not to get overly religious, but in the Bible there is a passage, Proverbs 31.  This speaks of a "woman of noble character".  In the latter sections of the passage it says "many women do noble things, but you surpass them all".  Carolyn, you are a blessing and an amazing woman!  I love you so much!

Now — get wheeling for next year!!

Brian, a resident of Central Massachusetts, has participated for several years in the MS Challenge Walk as a member of the bike support crew.  Not only does his wife Carolyn have MS, but his grandmother had MS and eventually died from complications related to it. Brian is best known to as the provider of tropical flavored Starbursts and Jolly Rancher candies along the trail.

Symbolic inspiration

Written by on September 17, 2009 at 9:00 am

It's the last day of the 2009 three-day, 50-mile MS Challenge Walk,, and there are a little more than five miles to go. As a bicycle support crewman, I'm riding up to an intersection when I notice Carolyn coming around the corner behind me. At this crossing, we will be going uphill. I am going to ride my bicycle up that hill, as my legs work fine, I have very good balance, and I can do almost as much on my bicycle as the average person can do on two feet — but Carolyn is rounding the corner in her wheelchair. She is a vibrant young woman who is in a wheelchair because multiple sclerosis has stopped her legs from working.

I have been part of the MS Challenge walk for five years now. I've walked it twice and have been bike crew for three more. Carolyn has been here for years as well. I remember seeing her standing a while back, but for these last couple of years, I have seen her only in that wheelchair.

The road is never lonely when you have the support of your fellow MS Challenge Walkers.

The road is never lonely when you have the support of your fellow MS Challenge Walkers. Photo courtesy Andrew Child.

At this moment, though, all that is on my mind is to make sure Carolyn makes it up that hill. I can see in her eyes that getting up that hill is all that fills her mind as well. She does not want the walker behind her to lend a gentle push up the hill; she is going to get up this thing herself. So off we go. I remember looking at her and thinking, she's so tiny, I hope she can pull this off. I started with my bike in first gear, and she's behind me pushing along. We're moving almost as fast as most of the walkers. But this hill is steep and long, so before you know it, we've gone about fifty or sixty yards. I have to step off the bike and walk because we are moving so slow, I can no longer maintain balance.

Carolyn is starting to labor as she thrusts her hands downward, driving her wheels forward. I can see a look on her face — the look you see on the finest athletes when they are digging deep for that last bit of strength. We go a little farther. The walker behind her says, "Let me know if you want help." Carolyn doesn't respond until she gets through this push, then she pauses for a second in her wheelchair. We are a little more than halfway up. A pretty good size group of walkers has built up behind her. She doesn't appear to know how many are back there, but they are there. So she pauses, still looking straight up that hill. I look at her and say, "Come on kid, you can do this." Carolyn looks up at me and says, "This is my Rocky moment." With a little grin on her face, she starts driving her wheelchair forward again. Over her shoulder she responds to the walker, "I'm okay, this is one of my goals, I have to get over this hill." So we continue on.

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I walk for my wife, Patty, diagnosed with MS in 1994. I walked for my first two years but decided to switch to bike crew on my third year, a role I've enjoyed these past two years. If you need water, Tootsie Pops, or anything else, let me know. Patty and I have met so many wonderful people over these past years and together we can hopefully contribute to the cure.