DOLTON, Ill.—Nearly one million Americans are afflicted with multiple sclerosis, while more than 20,000 Illinois residents are living with the autoimmune disease, according to advocacy groups.
Several hundred people—friends, family, and multiple sclerosis, or MS, survivors—from across Illinois and elsewhere participated in the first MS Walk in the south suburbs of Chicago. The event here in the Village of Dolton raised a little over $4,000. Funds donated during the May 14 walk will help individuals and families living with the disease and go toward research to help find a cure.
“Today’s event was really great,” said Shannon Feeney, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s senior manager of emerging events. “The turnout of more than 400 participants was amazing. We’re looking forward to (there) being another walk here in the south suburbs.”
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling, disease that causes damage in the central nervous system, brain and spinal cord, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Multiple sclerosis is thought to be an immune mediated disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers of the central nervous system, the group said. Often nerve fiber is also damaged, said the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis). When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are altered or stopped, the advocacy and research group explained.
“I recently became involved with the MS Society to bring awareness about the disease to the south suburbs. This event was a good show of unity and Allah (God) blessed me to be the catalyst that brought it about,” said Edward Steave Muhammad, a resident and trustee of Dolton, Ill., diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2011. He organized the event in the majority Black community.
“Black people with MS might also have more aggressive progression, greater disability and different symptoms, including more walking, balance, and coordination problems, more cognitive and visual symptoms, more frequent relapses with poorer recovery, and earlier disability onset,” the National Multiple Sclerosis Society also noted.
Dolton resident Jacqueline Perez said, “I was recently diagnosed with MS, and I am the only one in my family with it. I felt so alone until I was introduced to the MS Society. Today’s event really made me feel so hopeful and I now know and see that I am not alone and have support and resources.”
Sa’ad Muhammad, Student National Secretary of the Nation of Islam, whose wife, Tameka, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis four months into their marriage 20 years ago, were in attendance along with supporters. They sported shirts that read “Team Tameka.”
“It was a pleasure to be able to participate in today’s walk with my wife, friends, and family,” Mr. Muhammad said. “Brother Edward did a terrific job at organizing this event, bringing awareness about this disease to our community.”
Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard took part in the walk. “I definitely had to come and support Ed. I think this was a very positive and uplifting event,” Mayor Henyard said. “I welcome the MS Society. Our community very much welcomes the needed information and resources.”
Others shared how happy they were to participate in the south suburb walk.
“I’ve been participating in the MS Walk for the last few years in Chicago and being able to attend the first walk in Dolton is beautiful,” Chicago resident Gail Williamson said. “I know two people with multiple sclerosis and watching them over the years, seeing how resilient they are, motivated me to do all that I can to educate others about this disease.”
There are ways to help those suffering from the disease manage the severity of their symptoms. Nancy McInroy, president of the National MS Society Illinois, said, “Along with conventional medicinal therapies, complementary therapies have shown to be effective with calming some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. A change in diet, exercise, Vitamin D, acupuncture, Tai Chi, and other methods have great benefits and we are determined to bring that information to the south suburbs.”
Event organizer Steave Muhammad’s family members flew in from Georgia and Boston to join and back him. Speaking on behalf of the family, his father, Edward Steave, Sr., stated, “I’m proud of Julian, that’s the name he’s known by in the family. He’s always been a leader. He’s never let anything slow him down, not even MS, and today is a reflection of that.”
(Shawntell Muhammad can be contacted at [email protected].)