MSAA’s Mission with the Mouse

By Gina Ross Murdoch, MSAA President & CEO

Recently, MSAA embarked on a new initiative of endurance events including the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, Tough Mudder Race Series, and the Disney World® Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna®.  This was an opportunity for us to engage people across the country in our mission to support the entire MS community.  Wanting to jump in and be part of this important effort, I signed up for my third half marathon at Disney World.

Team MSAA-Disney included fourteen runners participating in the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon and, for two overachievers, all four consecutively!  I selected the half marathon which is 13.1 miles. Training for the 13.1 mile half marathon is a grueling process that takes dedication and stamina. However, living with the uncertainty and challenges of multiple sclerosis is much more difficult than training for any endurance event.  As one of the participants, I sent out my fundraising emails and received some wonderful donations.  I was proud to be a full member of Team MSAA.

As my inspiration, I reached out to board members, volunteers and friends across the country to add their name to my running singlet.

As you can see, I carried the names of so many people who struggle every day with multiple sclerosis.

Race weekend – let’s do this!

Ready to run, tutu and all!

We begin at a very, very cold start with 60,000 Disney runners including 13 Team MSAA members.

Rosa and Ramón in their Team MSAA shirts stopped by for a photo before we take off

The fireworks explode and we are on our way!  Throughout the run, I see elite athletes running easily and I see others digging down deep to finish this challenge.

Here I am at the 3-mile mark with Nemo and Dory – still a long way to go!

I reach the 7 mile mark and I am tired.  I grab a drink and look down at my singlet and see the names of so many who are tired every day and not just this one day.  I think about their stories of their diagnosis, their journey, their challenges and they inspire me to continue on in their honor. As you can see in the photo below, those living with multiple sclerosis, those caring for a loved one living with multiple sclerosis, the entire medical community that has dedicated their lives to research and care, propelled me through the next 6.1 miles and I cross the finish line!!

Victory! I crossed the finish line inspired by all of the members of the MS community.

On Sunday, I am cheering for Team MSAA members Bekah, Rachael, and Michelle who are participating in the full marathon. Bekah and Rachel are completing the Dopey Challenge which consists of a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon over the four days of the event.  They run in honor of their father, Dan, who lives with multiple sclerosis.

Here’s a picture of Rachael and Bekah after they completed the Dopey Challenge on Sunday. What an incredible accomplishment!

I received texts along the way as they cross milestones of 5K, 10K, 20K, 23 miles, and come ever closer to that 26.2 mile marathon finish line.  I received the final text that all three runners have now completed the run and are receiving their well-deserved medals.  The amazing thing is that Bekah, Rachael, Michelle and the entire team were thankful to have the opportunity to participate in this event and support our mission. It is the members of the MSAA staff who are honored and humbled by their efforts over so many months to physically train, mentally prepare, and financially support our mission.  I could not be prouder of my fellow Team MSAA members who participated in everything from the 5K to the Dopey Challenge.  You are inspiring, amazing, and incredible people!!

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Stories to Inspire

By Kaitlyn Gallagher

On a lovely weekend in mid-September, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series took over Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway with thousands of dedicated runners. Whether participating in the 5K, 10K, or half marathon, runners represented countless nonprofit organizations with colorful shirts, logos, and team “swag” to raise awareness for their particular cause. I was lucky enough to represent #TeamMSAA as a runner in the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K along with a few others, including another MSAA employee, Emily!

I felt a bit out of my element running in a large scale race that Saturday morning – I’m certainly no athlete and even spent a few weeks training leading up to the race to make sure I was prepared! However, there was one runner on #TeamMSAA that was no stranger to racing for a cause. John Derry Jr., our top fundraiser for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series in Philadelphia, has run many times in support of different organizations. This year, John discovered that he could run in support of the MS community, and knew that he had to sign up for a very personal reason.

“MS has had a great impact on my life due to my grandmother having MS. My grandmother has shaped the man I am today,” said John. “I have been taking care of her my entire life. I am currently her primary caretaker. Over the years of caretaking I have grown to learn how to take care of others and pay attention to other’s needs.”

Meeting John was an incredible experience – he is a truly selfless person who not only takes on the responsibilities of caring for his grandmother, but spends his free time training and running to help others living with MS. He has taken his passion for running and turned it into a mission to serve others, and for that MSAA is extremely thankful! John raised over 700 dollars that will go toward providing members of the MS community with free programs and services like cooling vests, mobility equipment, MRI funding, and more.

John plans to continue running in other races, and is currently applying to get his Master’s degree to become a Physician’s Assistant, another decision influenced by his years as a caretaker. We wish John the best of luck in all of his future endeavors, and thank him on behalf of the MS community for his amazing work as a caretaker and advocate!

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Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone – A Daughter’s Story

By Rachael Scharett

A father is a very important role in a young girl’s life. I remember growing up thinking that no one was as strong or capable as my dad, Dan Scharett. He worked hard to support our family. He built the house I grew up in and he even came home from work and chopped wood for the wood stove we used for heating. I knew there was nothing my dad couldn’t do. Then, when I was still quite small, the most shocking thing happened; my dad broke his leg while playing softball at a family function. He had been running to a base and when he turned, his one leg didn’t, and it snapped. While everyone else simply thought nothing of it, I cried nonstop. He was a superhero and to see him get injured was something I couldn’t comprehend. What we later learned was that he had been experiencing numbness in his feet and legs which ultimately caused his fall; numbness caused by multiple sclerosis.

As a family, we’ve spent 25 years watching his gradual decline. The man who could do it all slowly lost his ability to chop wood for the wood stove, he couldn’t climb the stairs in the house he built, and now he can’t even stand. Despite this, he still laughs every day. He jokes around with our family, friends and neighbors. He still pushes himself to do things around the house and yard that even the healthiest individuals would hire someone to do. It was his motivation and drive that inspired me to run the Dopey Challenge at the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon. Seeing him fight to live a fulfilled life despite his MS motivates me to do things I would normally consider too hard. I wanted to run with Team MSAA during this event to help raise money in my dad’s honor, so when I saw the Dopey Challenge, which consists of a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon, totaling 48.6 miles, I knew I had to choose that event. I am by no means an athletic individual, but if he can push himself every day, then the greatest thing I could do to show my appreciation for all he has done for our family, is to run the furthest and push myself outside of my comfort zone.

I truly hope that one day a cure will be found for MS but until then, organizations like the MSAA are a great resource for families like my own. I am proud to be able to fundraise and contribute to such a wonderful organization…. My dad will be there when I cross the finish line, supporting me, just like he has always done; after all, he is still my superhero.

*Rachael is participating in the Dopey Challenge as a member of Team MSAA during the Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna®.  To learn more about Rachael’s run or support Team MSAA, please check out her personal page.

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