On Monday, Mayor Rob Saunders helped raise the MS Society of Canada’s flag outside city hall in recognition of May as MS Awareness Month.
And on Saturday, the MS Society will kick off the month with its signature fundraiser, the Jayman Built MS Walk.
The annual charitable walk has long been the MS Society’s most popular fundraiser. Last year, the Lloydminster chapter raised a record $200,000. Initially, organizers hoped to top that figure this year, but that doesn’t look likely, says MS Society Lakeland regional director Johanna Green.
“Our observation has been that revenues are down this year compared to last year and we suspect that is a product of the economic downturn in our community,” she said.
However, physical participation in the walk has held up, noted Green. Around 440 walkers have already registered for the event, which takes place on May 2 at Bud Miller All Seasons Park, plus the MS Society normally receives about 100 more signups in the week leading up to the walk. Green says the organization still hopes to meet, or exceed last year’s total of 500 walkers.
Money from the MS Walk goes into the MS Society’s services that help people cope with the disease on multiple levels.
“Our office exists to be able to provide a broad array of support for individuals and families who are facing the realities of MS,” said Green. “Our office provides information, but also helps connect people with others in the community living with MS who can understand what they’re going through.”
In addition to emotional and educational support, the MS Society offers programs that help people affected by MS deal with the disease physically.
“We have all sorts of adapted exercise programs that help people in managing the physical symptoms of MS that can be really debilitating. We offer adaptive yoga classes as well as aqualite water aerobics.”
The MS Society also provides financial assistance to MS sufferers, and advocates to government on behalf of clients experiencing individual or systemic issues involving MS. All of those services will benefit from funds raised for the event.
Opening ceremonies for the MS Walk will take place inside the Lakeland College gymnasium at 8:50 a.m. on Saturday, while doors open at 8 a.m., with coffee and Timbits available for attendees. The MS Society will also have lunch available from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Those interested in registering or collecting more information about the event may visit www.mswalks.ca or call the Lloydminster chapter’s office at 780-871-0513.
MS Awareness Month also includes the MS Society’s longest standing fundraiser, the Carnation Campaign, on May 7 and 8. Over the two-day period, volunteers at various locations across the city will sell bouquets and potted flowers of carnations.
“Carnations are the MS Society’s symbolic flower of hope,” said Green. “It’s timely because it also leads right into the Mother’s Day weekend, so it’s a great opportunity for people to get something for Mom but also help support our cause.”
The organization is also gearing up to introduce an MS Awareness Month-themed initiative called Take the Pledge.
“It’s going to call on people to do something that is uniquely Canadian and to post it on social media and encourage other people to pledge them or support them and build a movement online,” Green said. “It really feeds into the fact that Canada has the highest rate of MS in the entire world.”