Parkites walk for MS | ParkRecord.com

Parkites walk for MS

Matthew Piper, OF THE RECORD STAFF

Heber City’s Ann Donahue has gotten creative in recent years leading "Annie’s Hope," one of the top fundraisers for the annual MS Walk event.

She’s held bake sales, organized a raffle at a local bar, bought rights to a new arrival for a movie night, and this year she hosted her first-ever Texas hold’em tournament. In 2009, her team earned $5,220, but the pressure of the economy has them aiming a tad short of that goal for 2010.

Donahue was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system, four years ago. More than twice as many women as men are diagnosed with MS, which affects one in 300 Utahns and about 400,000 people nationwide.

"It took about five years of all kinds of symptoms, several doctors, always being told, ‘Maybe you’re just depressed,’" said Donahue, who works full time at the Heber driver’s license division. "Now, I try just to deal with daily life. But it can be frightening at times."

Like many with MS, Donahue experiences vision loss and numbness in her hands, and the disease has progressed in recent years. To promote awareness and advance research into the disease, she has spent the last three years taking part in the MS Walk in Salt Lake City – which will be held Saturday, April 24, at the Gateway starting at 10 a.m.

For Donahue, it is a chance to be with family, including her husband, two sons, mother, brother, cousin and his children. Donahue said the bunch is "not the typical people you’d think would fundraise for an event like this."

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"It’s great to be with them and heartwarming to know that they care," said Donahue, who can receive direct contributions at main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/annies.

Jill Levine, who moved to Park City 12 years ago, is doing the walk with the Walk PC UT team for an old friend’s sister who was recently diagnosed in Massachusetts. It is the first year the team is taking part, but Levine has already walked three times almost a decade ago.

"I’m not sure why I stopped," said Levine, who has raised just more than $400, shy of her goal of $500. "I’d love to be able to hit that goal. It just makes you happy to do everything you can."

The National MS Society funds research, provides services to those with MS, and offers advocacy and education benefits. Becky Wooley, a Park City resident who serves as director of fundraising for the National MS Society’s Utah Chapter, said 86 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to the cause. Half of that money is used for national-based research, and half goes to the Utah chapter for many other uses.

The MS Walk in Salt Lake City – the biggest of six walks across Utah hopes to raise $242,500, Woolley said. The walk is the organization’s second-biggest event of the year, with Bike MS (a 175-mile bike race held June 26-27) raising $1.54 million of the chapter’s $2.5 million budget.

"They’re absolutely key to what we do," Wooley said.

"I was kind of surprised when I looked at the numbers (of participants) for Park City. It’s a good number, but not as many as I expected."

Follow the fundraising efforts or donate at http://www.walkmsutah.org. If you’d still like to walk, show up on race day (pre-race events begin at 8 a.m.) and be prepared to offer at least a small donation to the cause.