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WALK THIS WAY

by Brittany Mollis

MS Society hosts walk at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem

 brittany@yesweekly.com

The National MS Society defines Multiple Sclerosis as an immune-mediated process in which the body’s T cells pass from the bloodstream into the central nervous system to attack the myelin coating around the nerve fibers. People who don’t have MS or know someone that has MS might get lost in the definition. People have a hard time feeling sympathetic toward something unless they can relate to it. If it will help, try to visualize it as a movie.

Start with a setting. The setting of this movie takes place on a chilly Saturday morning during the beginning of spring. The place is called BB&T Field, and it is on the outskirts of Wake Forest University. The time period is recent. The mood is cheerful.

The plot of the movie is an event. It is called the 2014 MS Walk, and it is a walk that is held nationwide. This was the first year the City of Winston-Salem participated in the event.

Every movie needs a cast of characters. The supporting cast of characters in this particular movie is the people of the Triad that made this event possible. The MS Walk, hosted by 93.1 The Wolf, was worked by dozens of volunteers as well as sponsors. Companies such as Pepsi and Krispy Kreme came together to support a cause over the weekend. There were more than 40 teams that walked in the two-mile event, and teams ranged anywhere from one person to almost 40 people. After participants finished the race, they were treated with snacks, and children at the event enjoyed activities such as face-painting and a bounce house.

The main character in this movie, the character that helps the audience understand MS, is a 21-year old named Mariah Mallory and her family. She doesn’t have MS, but her father does.

“He was diagnosed with MS a long time ago,” Mallory said. “When I was a toddler, his MS had grown progressively worse until it got to the point where he was in a wheelchair because he couldn’t feel anything from the waist down.”

After two years of not being able to feel, Mallory said that one day, everything changed.

There was a miraculous plot twist. “He was in the bath tub, and he told my mom that the water was too hot on his feet,” Mallory said. “The feet that he couldn’t feel for the past two years.”

Mallory explained that it was an unlikely circumstance, but once he regained feeling, he was determined to make the most of it.

“Once you have MS, you don’t usually just get better like that,” Mallory said. “It was like he was given a second chance at life.”

He became active in everything he could, Mallory said. He ran marathons, and he was even given the opportunity to run with the Olympic torch in 2002.

“My mom entered him into a contest that year,” Mallory said. “She gave them his story, and they figured it was inspiring enough to give him the opportunity to run with the torch.”

Her father was healthy for 10 years before his symptoms returned, and while he may not be feeling well now, the Mallory family stays hopeful.

“MS is really a horrific disease,” Mallory said. “The people who get it have different ways of suffering. I know a lady who has it, but you would never know it. I also know people who need special glasses just to stop with the double vision. Everyone is different.”

While it is her father who battles the disease, it is her mother that has inspired her to participate in the fight against MS.

“We used to go to these walks when we were young,” Mallory said. “My mom was always very active in them whether it was being a team captain or sponsoring the event in some way.”

Mallory and her sister have been active in the annual walk since they were about six or seven, she explained.

“I remember my sister and I making a big, balloon arch to set up at the finish line so the people walking in the race could walk under it at the end,” Mallory said.

Mallory explained that her father doesn’t participate because of his health, but even when he was healthy, he had a difficult time with the MS Walk. “It was too emotional, I think,” Mallory said.

Mariah Mallory’s favorite thing about the annual MS Walk is the way it brings everyone together.

“Just to see the turnout and the sincerity is beautiful,” Mallory says. “These people connect on a level that some wouldn’t understand. The love here is so real.”

Mallory hopes that Winston-Salem will make the MS Walk an annual event, and she will attend every year that she is here. She also hopes to one day go back to New England to participate in the 75-mile, 2-day bike race that is held for MS research.

In an ideal movie, there would be a conclusion now.

There might even be a happy ending. Multiple Sclerosis doesn’t offer much of a conclusion. There is no end to it yet, and ten-thousand new cases are diagnosed every year. The United States is among the most highrisk MS countries in the world. Statistics show that the disease is more common in females, and while it can be diagnosed to anyone at any age, it is most common to find it in people from ages 20-50.

More people are being diagnosed with the disease now than ever before, but it may not be because more people are getting MS. It may be because events like the MS Walk raise awareness for the disease as well as raise money for research.

There may not be an ending to this movie yet, but everyone at BB&T Field on Saturday left the walk feeling better, including Mariah Mallory.

“It was so touching to see little kids with shirts on that said, ‘I’m doing this for my Daddy/Mommy/ Brother/Sister’,” Mallory said. “It’s just nice to feel connected.”

Mariah plans on walking in the event for the rest of her life or until there is an end to MS. There may not be an end yet, but they are walking on the right path. !

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