MS Wallk 2018

Marie Gilmore cuts the ribbon to kick off the 2018 Walk MS Ocean City event, which typically takes place in April but was delayed this year to avoid overlapping Easter weekend.

(May 31, 2019) Held for the past two dozen years, the annual Walk MS Ocean City event this Saturday has gained added poignancy in the wake of a recent scientific study reporting the number of U.S. adults living with the disease has doubled from previous estimates and is approaching the million mark.

Known as a notoriously unpredictable disease, multiple sclerosis disables the central nervous system and interrupts information flow within the brain.

Whitney Pogwist, manager of the Walk MS DC-Maryland Chapter, said the updated research was funded by the National MS Society and uncovered startling data.

This February, a trio of research teams published findings from three separate studies in the Journal of Neurology estimating in 2017 more than 900,000 adults in the U.S. were living with the disease. That figure more than doubles the last scientifically-sound national study of MS prevalence completed in 1975.

“With twice as many people living with MS, solutions for MS are now twice as important,” she said.

Pogwist said organizers are anticipating about 300 people to raise roughly $67,000 during the 24th annual Walk MS Ocean City event this Saturday.

Traditionally held in April, Pogwist said after organizers realized the event fell on Easter weekend in 2019, an alternative date was sought. 

Despite being pushed back a few months from previous years the Ocean City event is otherwise unchanged with the multi-distance walk commencing at 1 p.m. with check-in starting at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at the inlet parking lot near the Boardwalk.

Participants can head from the inlet up the Boardwalk to 19th Street and back to complete three miles, with a one-mile stroll turning around at Third Street and returning to the starting spot.

Heidi Werosta, from WBOC-TV will emcee the event. National sponsors Biogen, Genentech and Novartis will also be on hand. Light snacks will be provided by Fisher’s Popcorn, Wegmans and Herr’s.

“Ocean City is a destination event with participants from the entire state of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Northern Virginia,” she said.

Pogwist said the seaside walk provides a prime networking opportunity for a geographically-diverse segment unified in pushing forward to cure the disease which impacts roughly 2.3 million individuals worldwide.

Regardless of steps completed, the day provides a chance to gain knowledge of the support services offered by the National MS Society, with dedicated volunteers on hand to answer questions, Pogwist said.

Although the walk does not include a registration fee, Pogwist said funding is raised by participants and through individual donations.

“The funds raised support vital research, programs and services so individuals with MS can live their best lives,” she said.

Since staging the first MS Walk event in 1988, organizers estimate roughly 300,000 people have raised more than $1 billion nationwide.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society reports the disease is not contagious or genetically inherited, with typical life expectancy at least close to, if not, normal.

The disease does not always result in a severe disability, but many do experience blurred vision, poor coordination and balance, slurred speech and extreme fatigue. Other symptoms include tremors, numbness, memory deficiencies, concentration challenges, and even paralysis or blindness.

The progress, severity and specific symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary by individual and are challenging to predict.

The majority of diagnoses occur between the ages of 20 and 50, but the disease has impacted children as young as 2 and elderly patients as old as 75, with females accounting for two to three times the number of men. 

More than 400,000, of what is now understood to be nearly a million people living with multiple sclerosis, have registered with the National MS Society, which reports program participants tend to become less isolated, with improved knowledge leading to brighter spirits.

Striving for crucial advances in the charge for a cure, the National MS Society empowers advocates to form partnerships to leverage funding, including more than $51 million through a MS Research Program run by the Department of Defense and $69 million through the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

“We believe that we are stronger together,” she said. “Walk MS is a gathering place for everyone that is passionate about ending MS forever.” 

For more information about MS or the walk, visit www.nationalmssociety.org or call 800-344-4867.

Newshound striving to provide accurate and detailed coverage of topics relevant to Ocean City and Worcester County

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