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For mother, son with MS, walk gets personal

It’s going to be a bit different this year, but the results are expected to be better than ever before.


For the third year in a row, Halifax County Middle School teacher Karen Smith plans to participate in a benefit walk for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Richmond on March 23.  

This year, however, due to school responsibilities, Smith has registered as a “virtual” walker.

 Her husband, Paul, and son Evan will both be walking to help raise funds for research to find a cure.  

These three county residents unfortunately have ties to this unpredictable disease.  

The last two years they each walked three miles in the Central Virginia Chapter of the National MS Society Walk.  

 “Every hour someone is diagnosed with MS, a chronic disease of the central nervous system for which there is no cure.  Multiple Sclerosis interrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body and stops people from moving.  Many have trouble imagining what their lives would be without the ability to move, but I know first-hand the effects of MS,” Smith said.  

Recently, she and her son both experienced exacerbations of the disease.  Smith was even hospitalized.  

 “No two days are the same,” she said. “I never know what to expect.”

MS became personal for the Halifax County Middle School teacher’s family when both she and her youngest son were diagnosed with the disease.  

“Evan was diagnosed four years ago at the age of 19, and I was definitively diagnosed in December 2010.  I decided at that point that I was going to do something.  When I learned of the walk in Richmond, I immediately registered,” she said.  

She explained how the Central Virginia Chapter helps individuals who have been diagnosed with MS.  

“Money helps fund research to find a cure as well as helping those in Central Virginia who have the disease and need durable goods including wheel chairs and ramps,” she said.  

“The chapter also offers college scholarships to students with MS or whose parents have MS.  Likewise, scholarships are provided for exercise facilities so that MS patients can receive the physical activity they need.”

With the support of the community, she and her family raised a substantial amount of money for the walk last year and are hoping to exceed that goal this year.  In fact, she and her family raised over $7,000 for the Central Virginia MS Society.  

“I was the second highest individual fundraiser at the walk,” she said. 

This year she has set her goal even higher in hopes of surpassing last year’s efforts.  The middle school English teacher said she has received support from local churches, Ruritan clubs and Halifax County Middle School.  

In fact, the middle school is observing Multiple Sclerosis Week the week of March 11-15 with various activities each day.  MS facts will be read daily during morning announcements, students will be encouraged to donate $1 so that they may wear their favorite hats, there will be an information table in the lobby during all lunches one day, and near the end of the week, all students, faculty and staff will be asked to wear orange.  

“I am a teacher at HCMS, and the support of the students, faculty, and staff there is amazing.  It is heartwarming to see so many wearing the orange bracelets that I am selling with all proceeds going to the walk.  She continued, “It still makes my heart smile to see the students and teachers wearing orange ribbons and bracelets to support me and the MS cause.”

“My Dan River Baptist Church family and my parents’ church, County Line Baptist, have also been quite generous,” said Smith.

She and her family look for hope and are confident that one day there will be a cure.  

“I hope that there will one day, in the not so distant future, be a cure.  All the money raised during the annual walk will bring us one step closer to that cure,” she concluded.

To make a donation and support Smith in the Central Virginia MS Walk in Richmond on March 23, contact her at 434-579-4004.