Public turns out for annual Walk MS event

PARKERSBURG – A large crowd gathered under the safety of a bridge near Point Park on Sunday afternoon when some rain drops threatened the Walk MS event.

However, the scarce rain did not prevent walkers from helping to raise money and bring awareness about Multiple Sclerosis.

Participants from all over the state came to Parkersburg, with about 100 people participating in the walk, organizers said. The event has had some bumps in the road during harder economic times, but coordinators said they are slowly seeing more people come in support of those they know effected by MS.

Victoria Paul, development coordinator for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Blue Ridge Chapter, said the Walk MS event has been a success all over the state. She coordinates about nine MS walks and one bicycle event throughout West Virginia, working out of the society’s Charleston office.

The typical route for walkers extends from 3-5 miles and attracts 42,000 participants in nearly 600 locations over all 50 states. Walk MS exists to be a rallying point for the MS movement and last year alone 150,000 walkers joined teams to support the effort.

The Blue Ridge chapter supports northwest and southwest Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. Money raised from the walks goes towards local services, fundraising, management, research and nationwide programs.

The society wants to make sure the disease does not stop people from moving.

“We’ve got a lot of new people here this year,” Paul said. “The Git-R-Done team is from Marietta and we have a team that came up from Ripley.”

During Sunday’s event, Paul told the over 70 eager walkers the good news of a fairly new drug for the MS community. BG-12 is an oral drug approved by the Federal Drug Administration in March and could be a potential breakthrough drug in helping thousands of people suffering from the disease.

Mayor Bob Newell attended Sunday’s event and spoke to the crowd about the great breakthroughs for the MS community. He said he has a family member who suffers from the disease and a personal connection to helping find treatments for others who suffer.

Ritchie County resident Lori Nutt brought her team of friends and family members, all wearing shirts stating “Always Our Hero” and “Team Lori.” The group was there to support Nutt, diagnosed with MS about a year ago.

“They are a wonderful support system,” Nutt said of her team.

Applebee’s restaurants provided a lunch to participants, free of charge, while Pepsi provided drinks, organizers said.

The money raised was not tallied Sunday afternoon, but organizers said they raised close to $10,000 last year with about 70 participants.

The event took place at Point Park this year but may be moved to City Park next year, coordinators said. A silent auction and information about MS was available for participants to learn about as they walked the course.