By 8 a.m. on May 8, the St. Paul Recreation Centre was bustling with people. Volunteers in red shirts were running around, helping out where they could, while residents from across the Lakeland penciled in the finishing details on their pledge sheets.
The third annual MS Walk, which is now known as the Lakeland Enerflex MS Walk, has become much more than what organizers imagined it would be just three short years ago when it was started.
This year, after all the pledges, online donations, and other funds were tallied up, it is estimated that a whopping $163,000 was raised by people in St. Paul, Bonnyville, Elk Point, and surrounding communities.
“Isn’t that crazy?” asks Sherry Bower Gagne, one of the MS Society Advisory Committee members, just a couple days after the 2010 walk wrapped up. “It’s incredible. I just can’t get over it.”
The unexpectedly high number of participants meant that this year, the beef on a bun lunch would run out before everyone could be served. Bower Gagne says organizers would like to apologize for the lack of food, and assures that in the coming years, it won’t happen again.
Although the total funds raised are the accumulation of everyone’s hard work, there are some individuals who stand out on paper. James Purdy, a Bonnyville resident, is one of those people. He is also one of the newest members of the MS Advisory Committee.
Purdy, a 27-year-old man who suffers from MS, had managed to rally a huge group of residents from Bonnyville to help with the cause, including his co-workers from Devon Canada, family and friends. Purdy’s team – MS Ain’t Purdy – managed to raise about $30,000 this year.
“He is such a gift for us,” says Bower Gagne. She adds that Purdy is an “amazing guy” and she is proud to have him working with the committee.
Purdy, who has two young children under the age of three, was diagnosed with MS about a year and a half ago. He had been experiencing some numbing in one of his arms at the time.
“Luckily my wife pushed the issue,” says Purdy, later adding, “I don’t see a doctor unless I’m bleeding.”
Although one of his symptoms is fatigue, Purdy manages to stay physically active - on Saturday, he walked the 10 km route.
“I think most people see me, they would have no idea I had MS,” says Purdy, adding he did the walk for the people who cannot do it themselves.
The spin-offs from the walk have been immense in allowing the Lakeland MS Society to provide all types of services for people with MS, he says. “It’s sure nice to have that support group behind you.”
Bower Gagne adds that through the local chapter of the MS Society and annual walk, a support network is being created “for people who didn’t have it before.” And the funds raised will help that network continue to grow.
Of course, one day, supporters would like to see research lead to a cure. And for Purdy, knowing that funds from the walk are directed to that research is reassuring.
“It feels like we’re that close. I feel like we’re there,” says Purdy, as he speaks about the research, such as CCSVI, that looks promising. But, he admits the disease is unpredictable.
“I don’t know where I’m going to be in five years, I don’t know where I’m going to be in 10 years,” he says, adding, he wants to do whatever he can to help out before the disease progresses.