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EMU President Honored by National Multiple Sclerosis Society

052813 MS Champions1 HM_web

An annual dinner benefiting efforts to cure and treat multiple sclerosis raised more than $100,000 by Tuesday evening with money still on the way.

The Blue Ridge Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society held its annual Harrisonburg Dinner of Champions at the James Madison University Festival Conference and Student Center, raising $101,245, Fay Painter, chapter president, said.

“And donations are still coming in,” said Ryan Waid, the event’s chair.

Multiple sclerosis causes a body’s own defense system to attack nerve fibers that surround and protect the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord.

Waid said during the dinner’s opening remarks that in the event’s 19 years, the chapter has raised just shy of $1.5 million to fight the disease.

At each dinner, the chapter presents the Silver Hope Award, its highest honor. This year, the award was presented to Loren Swartzendruber, longtime chapter supporter and president of Eastern Mennonite University.

“He’s been involved with the event for many years,” Painter said.

Waid said Swartzendruber was given the award “for his outstanding leadership in the community.”

Swartzendruber said that while he became involved with the chapter through his duties at EMU, the organization is important to him after seeing how MS has affected his cousin back home in Iowa.

“I’ve seen the devastating effect of that disease on her life,” he said. “[She has] battled through it for many years.”

While Swartzendruber said he’s no expert, he gave a thumbnail sketch of the disease’s effects. Some people may be diagnosed and show no symptoms for years, while in others it comes on quickly, he said.

“The symptoms are very different depending on the individual,” he said.

Money raised from the event will go toward finding a cure and supporting 6,000 people affected by MS and their families throughout the chapter’s region, which includes half of Virginia, all of West Virginia and part of Kentucky, Painter said.

“We envision a world free of MS,” she said.

The chapter’s next fundraising event is the Tour de Vine on June 8 and 9. The two-day bike ride begins and ends at Pollack Vineyards in Greenwood.

The tour, which is the chapter’s biggest single fundraiser, is expected to raise more than $400,000, Painter said.

Cyclists must each raise $300 to participate. Email vab@nmss.org  for more details about the event.

Article courtesy Daily News Record, May 29, 2013

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