September 1, 2014

Family comes together to bike (and walk) for MS cure

On the eve of the Bike MS event in New Bern, Sharon Powell recalls gaining inspiration at the Triangle MS 5K Walk in Raleigh.

For the last four years, one of my brothers, Paul Powell, and our nephew, Robert Jackson, have ridden in the Bike MS: Historic New Bern Ride. Together, they have raised about $9,000. They have trained all spring for this year’s ride, which takes place Saturday and Sunday in New Bern.

My brother and nephew take this grueling ride for me. I have multiple sclerosis. Having MS means that I may suddenly have blurry vision, my memory may fail for no apparent reason or I may not always be able to walk. The devastating symptoms of the disease are different for everyone. According to the National MS Society, MS affects another person every hour of every day.

I can’t take the bike ride, but inspired by my family, I participated in the Triangle MS 5K Walk in Raleigh for the last two years. The first year I was not confident enough to ask many of my friends or family members for money. Instead, I donated $150 and received a $35 donation from a close friend. Anyone who raised at least $200 received a T-shirt. On the day of the walk, the young man behind the desk felt sorry for me and gave me a shirt anyway.

At the the walk, I was amazed by the crowd’s enthusiasm. The event was a very emotional and enlightening experience for me.

After we began walking, I introduced myself to a woman who I learned is from my home, Nash County, and who like me, has MS. As we walked, we bonded over shared obstacles. For example, we both have felt distressed by friends or loved ones suggesting that we are faking our symptoms or using the disease as a crutch.

My walking partner and her companion were taking the 1-mile route. I decided to take this shorter route as well and was surprised by how quickly the walk was over. At that moment, I knew I would be back.

This April, I participated again and raised $510. My daughter, Samantha Powell-Jones, my brother, Charles Powell, and a friend, David Baffoni, walked with me. When we arrived at the finish line, I was caught off guard by the rush of emotion I felt. The crowd of 4,500, including about 300 participants who are living with MS, raised more than $420,000.

I am a procrastinator, but for next year, I vow to start earlier. I will even do what several fundraising-savvy children in my neighborhood do: I’ll knock on doors. But right now, I’m helping my brother raise money for Bike MS.

My future is uncertain; MS can be fatal. It takes dollars to fund the search for a cure and I am committed to supporting the cause. After all, medical breakthroughs funded from charitable donations could save my life – or the life of someone close to you.

Sharon Powell is an audience retention and collection agent in the circulation department of The News & Observer.

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