LAKELAND - Typically, the Lakeland MS Walk draws hundreds of people from across the region to St. Paul for its largest annual fundraising event.
Over the years, the region has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars to support people living with MS. But, this year's event will not see supporters gather in St. Paul. Instead, people are being asked to join the walk in a virtual event set for May 24.
Brenda Rosychuk, manager of the Lakeland Regional Office with the MS Society of Canada, has been at the helm of the walk for a number of years. On May 8, she spoke about how normally, she would have been busy getting things ready for the walk in St. Paul, which was originally scheduled to take place on May 9. The walk, in its original format, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For me, setting up for the MS Walk has been a highlight of my career for the past almost decade," says Rosychuk. While she admits she feels sad the event won't be the same, she's happy the organization has been able to pivot and offer the walk in a different way.
While the event will look different, it's even more crucial that people step forward and offer their support, if they can. People may not be able to connect with their neighbours face to face, the virtual event will allow people to connect with Canadians across the country online.
Opening and closing ceremonies will still take place on May 24, with opening ceremonies scheduled for 10 a.m. People are encouraged to get outside and walk, hop on their treadmill, or even dance in their living rooms, says Rosychuk. Participants can complete the walk in whatever way works for them, while keeping their safety in mind.
Due to the current situation, the MS Society is predicting a large shortfall in its annual fundraising, says Rosychuk.
“This is our fundraising season," she explains. And for this reason, every dollar raised will be crucial.
When looking at the Lakeland region, Rosychuk is confident people will continue to support the cause. “People affected by MS is at the heart of everything we do,” she says, adding, it's important to keep people engaged in the mission.
Having spoken with some of the participants, sponsors and donors, Rosychuk says the response to the virtual event has been good.
"Every year, we're pretty blessed to have the supporters that we do."
And so, people are encouraged to continue to fundraise online, come up with unique and new ways to raise money and continue to show their support.
The MS Society recently launched the #WeChallengeMS initiative online to remind people that they can turn every day acts into extraordinary actions.
Rosychuk encourages people to register for the St. Paul walk onine, by visiting mssociety.ca
“Every dollar counts at this point.”
For more information about the virtual walk, contact Rosychuk at 587-252-3502.