News

Big turnout for MS walk in Simcoe

Monte Sonnenberg

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Marsha Ryerse of Delhi was one of seven members of the team Keep S’Myelin that participated in this weekend’s Mandarin Walk for MS in Simcoe. MS has caused problems with Ryerse’s vision but to date she’s been able to keep the condition under control. (MONTE SONNENBERG Simcoe Reformer)

Marsha Ryerse of Delhi was one of seven members of the team Keep S’Myelin that participated in this weekend’s Mandarin Walk for MS in Simcoe. MS has caused problems with Ryerse’s vision but to date she’s been able to keep the condition under control. (MONTE SONNENBERG Simcoe Reformer)

Multiple sclerosis affects the nervous system.

 

As such, it produces a wide variety of symptoms. These range from numbness to dizziness to fatigue and problems walking.

For Marsha Ryerse of Delhi, the first sign of trouble involved her vision. Ryerse was already born blind in one eye when her good eye began to go blurry last year.

“It affected me hugely,” Ryerse said at this weekend’s Mandarin Walk for MS in Simcoe. “I was going blind.”

Fortunately, this episode ended and Ryerse got most of her vision back. Her MS is in remission and there have been no further complications. To that end, Ryerse says attitude is important.

“You keep active,” she said. “You keep fighting. You never give up.”

It helps to have a strong support system. Ryerse and six others banded together Sunday in Simcoe as part of the team Keep S’Myelin.

The play on words is based on the fact that MS is a condition affecting the myelin sheath that coats nerve fibres.

This sheath, which is similar in function to insulation on an electric wire, ensures nerve impulses fire properly. When the myelin sheath deteriorates, the nervous system begins to short-circuit, producing a host of unpleasant symptoms.

The annual MS walk in Simcoe is one way for Ryerse and those like her to fight back. This weekend’s event, which was based at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, is the 16th to date in Simcoe. Karen Mater of Simcoe has organized every one. The walk last year raised $45,000.

“After 16 years, I think we have it right,” Mater said. “A lot of people bring their kids and grand kids and make it a family fun day. People know we’re raising funds that stay in the community. People are coming together to support each other.”

There were a total of 57 walks for MS across Ontario on Sunday. Simcoe’s event featured courses of two and five kilometres.

Mark Goguen, a fund development co-ordinator for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, was responsible for overseeing walks in Brant County, Woodstock, Owen Sound and Simcoe. He chose to spend the big day at Holy Trinity observing how the newly-formed Grand Erie chapter of MSSC executes its ground game.

“I just wanted to see how everything came together here,” Goguen said. “I see they are very well organized, dedicated and passionate about the cause.”

An estimated 18,000 people took part in walks across Ontario on Sunday. The Mandarin name is affixed to the events because the restaurant chain contributes $100,000 a year to the cause.

Funds raised this weekend will help support research, programs and services for MS victims, and advocacy work on behalf of victims and their support agencies.

“There are no doubts in my mind that the continuous support of donors is the main reason why many promising therapies are currently under investigation in clinical trials for MS,” Dr. Steve Lacroix of Laval University in Quebec said Sunday in a statement. “As far as I know, there are probably more therapies being tested for MS at the moment than for any other disease of the nervous system. This would not have been possible without the generosity of donors who have contributed to the MS Society.”

MS is of special concern to Canadians. With an estimated 100,000 Canadians diagnosed, Canada has the largest incidence of MS on a per capita basis of any country in the world.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com