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Walk MS participants head out of Navy Marine Corps Stadium (photo by Elaina Clarke/TU Student)

Hundreds turned out at Navy Marine Corps Stadium on Sunday, May 3, for the Walk MS: Annapolis Walk 2011.

Organized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the 3.2 mile annual walk is designed to raise money and spread awareness for those affected by the disease.

Multiple Sclerosis is a demyelinating, autoimmune disease caused by damage to the myelin sheath, that slows or stops nerve impulses. The exact number of Americans with MS is unknown, although it is estimated that roughly 200 new cases are diagnosed weekly.

The Society raised $446,051 by the day of the walk, which puts them on course to raise their goal of $1.2 million, according to Maryland Chapter President Mark Roeder. The second of 10 walks in Maryland, it drew about 100 more walkers than the previous year, a boost Roeder attributes to their return to the Stadium from Severn Middle School last year.

“This year we’re back at the Stadium…people find that to be very exciting,” he said.

Roeder has been working for the MS Society for the past eight years and has been participating in walks since 1989, when he walked in the first ever Walk MS. Since then, he says, the event has grown significantly, from one walk to 10 per year, and from 200 total participants to 8000. One example of this is the medical advancement that has taken place.

“Back then there were no treatments for MS,” he said. Now he proudly says there are seven available treatments for people suffering from the disease.

Like Roeder, each person at the Annapolis Walk MS came with a different story and a different reason for participating. Raleigh Kennedy, a freshman at Towson University, walks to support her uncle, who has had MS for over 30 years.

“My uncle was diagnosed with MS when he was 21 and he’s currently 53…[my family] just wanted to support him because he gives so much to our family.”

A New Market native and first-time walker, Kennedy believes events such as this one, especially in an historic city such as Annapolis, are a good way to raise money and spread the word about MS.

“I think it’s very good because Annapolis is a very busy city, everyone was out there watching, and it was good because we were all out there walking, wearing MS signature colors…definitely spreading awareness.”

To Kennedy, the experience, from the “really good” food, which included a breakfast spread, rest stop refreshments, and lunch of hot dogs, hamburgers and pasta, to the “motivated crowd” was worthwhile.

“I hope to participate in more, I’m just not very athletic…I’d have to train more. But three miles is the perfect amount so I’d definitely do that again.”

Fellow walker Elizabeth Hamilton, whose team raised over $2,000, has two reasons for walking: to support her soon to be Father-in-law, and to “increase awareness for MS.” Hamilton, who participated in the Walk MS in D.C. last year, also had a good experience at the walk and plans to return to future walks. Though she didn’t get a chance to enjoy the lunch provided, she approved of the spread.

“Unfortunately, we went out to eat on the water afterward so we did not enjoy the hamburgers and hot dogs. But the food that was provided was great and very generous.”

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