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Annual Multiple Sclerosis Walk in Ocean City, April 11

(April 10, 2015) Come out to the Boardwalk on Saturday morning, April 11, to help eradicate Multiple Sclerosis during Ocean City’s 20th annual MS Walk.

“When participating in Walk MS, the funds raised give hope to more than 10,000 people living with MS in Maryland and more than 600 people living here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with the disease,” said Whitney Pogwist, development coordinator at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “The dollars raised support promising research to stop the disease and restores function that has been lost to end MS forever.”

The walk begins at 10 a.m. at the inlet. Walkers will head down the Boardwalk to 19th Street, turn around and come back. Registration is free and opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday for participants who did not pre-register.

Entertainment will be provided by Twisters Gymnastics from Berlin and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore cheerleading squad will be cheering on the walkers.

Lunch will be provided by Pizza Tugos, in addition to treats from Fishers Popcorn and Candy Kitchen.

Ocean City is the kickoff location for all MS walks in Maryland, where 11 others will be going on throughout the state during 2015. There is a total of 550 MS walk sites nationwide with more than 330,000 participants this year, Pogwist said.

On Tuesday, 46 teams had signed up, which is more than the 44 teams who participated last year in Ocean City. A total of 532 walkers took to the boards in 2014 and organizers expect close to 600 people at this year’s event, she added.

The MS Walk in Ocean City raised $79,297 in 2014. The goal is to bring in $85,000 this year.

With no registration fee, the event generates funds from personal donations to the organization and by participants. The Ocean City Walk has raised more than $1 million since its inception 20 years ago.

“Walk MS connects people living with MS and brings all kinds of people together,” Pogwist said. “It is an experience unlike any other, a day to come together, to celebrate the progress we’ve made and to show the power of our connections.”

Lori Heinz-Giampa has been battling MS for 21 years and will be participating in Saturday’s walk with her team, “Lori’s Angels.”

“I feel you need to stay strong, have a positive attitude and not forget the power of prayer,” Heinz-Giampa said. “You cannot worry about yesterday because it’s gone, tomorrow is not here yet, focus on the moment.”

She first participated in Walk MS about 12 years ago when she still lived in Pennsylvania and her son was 5 years old.

“Lori’s Angels” was established in Pennsylvania and she brought the team with her to Ocean City when she moved to Berlin eight years ago. This Saturday, a couple of her Pennsylvania friends will be participating as well as local team members she has recruited.

“It is awesome just from the support alone and makes your fight worth it when you have family and friends who support you,” she said.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the disease is not contagious and is not directly inherited, and most people with MS have a normal or near-normal life expectancy. The majority of people with MS do not become severely disabled, but the disease can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis and blindness.

Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75 have developed it. At least two to three times more women are diagnosed with the disease than men.  

Approximately 400,000 Americans are living with MS. Every hour, someone is newly diagnosed with MS in this country. Worldwide, MS affects about 2.1 million people. There is no cure for the disease, but there are FDA-approved medications that have been shown to “modify” or slow down the underlying course of MS.

For more information about MS or the walk, visit www.walkMSmaryland.org or call 800-FIGHT-MS.

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