05/02/10 — 200 walk Saturday to fight MS

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200 walk Saturday to fight MS

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 2, 2010 1:50 AM

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Nearly 200 people walked through the streets of Goldsboro Saturday to raise money for multiple sclerosis. MS is a chronic disease involving damage to nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Watching childhood friends Tonya Barber and Kristin Clark share laughs as they recall a lifetime of shared memories, no one would ever suspect that one suffers a serious disease.

The two Goldsboro natives, surrounded by family and friends, were among the some 200 people who gathered Saturday morning for the first Walk MS event in the city in nearly a decade.

It is cause near and dear to the women who have known each others since the fifth grade -- Mrs. Clark was diagnosed three years ago with the disease that attacks the central nervous system.

It can affect people's mobility, cause numbness and tingling, affect vision and cause cognitive problems.

"Kristin's story is very interesting," Mrs. Barber said. "We were being very health conscious around our 30th birthdays, running and being very active. It seemed like she just woke up one morning and could not move.

"It took the doctors 10 days to diagnose Kristin with MS and it was shocking because she was living such a healthy lifestyle. Kristin grabbed the bull by the horns and immediately started fundraising for her first Walk MS and getting connected with her local National MS Society chapter."

Mrs. Clark, who now lives at Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was in Goldsboro just for the walk.

"I have been diagnosed almost three years now," Mrs. Clark said. "I have done three walks in Pensacola, Fla. so this will be my fourth walk here in Goldsboro.

"I wanted to be a part of it, it is Goldsboro's first (in about 10 years) so being from being from Goldsboro I wanted to be here for it. I did a team in Pensacola, MonSter Bashers, and this is Team MonSter Kickers. So we are sister teams."

Mrs. Barber's team hopes to raise $3,000 for the MS Society.

" I love to support Kristen because I know how hard living with MS has been for her," Mrs. Barber said. "This is a difficult time in her life and a lot has changed. I love being able to be there for her, even if it is from a distance. MS has brought us closer.

"We have known each other since grade school. We are from Goldsboro, but we are both military dependents. So we have traveled. We have each lived on different continents. We are married and have children and our children are named after each other. Now she lives in Florida and I live here."

Walkers covered a three-mile course with a police escort and a van for anyone unable to finish. There also were water and snack stops along the route.

The event included a live band playing as the walkers returned. Lunch was provided by Jersey Mike's and Pizza Inn. There was even a team village area where teams set up for fundraising activities.

"It is heart-warming to see everyone out here and see every one participating," Mrs. Clark said. "You kind of think of MS in your own little world, and you don't see it this big -- to see everyone embracing and coming out and supporting MS.

"I am happy to be back home. I love it my old hometown community has embraced MS the way it has and I can't wait to come back and do it again next year."

Mrs. Barber has walked in two of Mrs. Clark's Florida walks. She was unable to walk in the most recent one just held in April -- she was in Goldsboro preparing for the local walk.

"That is why I am glad we are having a walk here this year," Mrs. Barber said. "I started a team immediately when I realized I would not be able to travel to Florida this year. This was the shortest trip that I have had for a walk so far.

"I am glad I can do it. I am glad that I am capable, physically, financially and blessed with friends and family who are able to support me support her."

The importance of the walk "is beyond words," she said.

"MS is one of those diseases that people just don't realize even exist and even if they do it is kind of in passing," Mrs. Barber said. "They have never really heard of it or if they have heard of it they don't know really what it is. It is one of those things that you look at the person who is suffering from MS and you say, 'oh, they look healthy, they look fine. There is nothing wrong with them.'

"It is not really anything that you would actually see as far as symptoms, but they are feeling it. She (Mrs. Clark) could be feeling a symptom right now and we would never know it unless she told us."

Mrs. Barber said she was very impressed by the number of walkers, particular in light of it being the first one held in so many years.

"But to me, I would be thankful if 20 people showed up," she said. "I am just so happy to see the support. It is not just financial contributions, but awareness is as important as well."

Mrs. Barber said she would like to see it made an annual event, one that she would remain involved with.

"I intend to start next year's Walk MS next week, so it can be bigger and better than this year's Walk MS" she said.

The goal for this year's MS event was $12,000.

"We had a Goldsboro Walk MS about 10 or 11 years ago and so this is the first time being back here in some time," said Elizabeth Jones, Walk MS coordinator with the National MS Society. "We had 150 people who registered ahead of time and we are expecting about 175 to 200 people here today."

Ms. Jones said MS officials were pleased with the turnout.

"We try with our fundraising goals, being this is the first year back here and with the economy the way it is, not to over stretch ourselves," she said. "But registration-wise to have close to 200 people for our first-year event in over 10 years is definitely a great turnout."

It isn't too late for people to make a donation, the fundraiser continues through June 1,

"People can turn in money even after today's event," Ms. Jones said. "They can mail it into the office, National MS Society, 3101 Industrial Drive, Suite 210, Raleigh, NC 27609."