About 60 walkers participated in the annual Saskatchewan Blue Cross MS WALK held May 26 in Swift Current, raising in excess of $11,000 to support research and programming for the 3,500 individuals in the province living with MS. Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world.
Funds raised through the WALK program stay in Saskatchewan and support Canadian MS research and client services initiatives such as higher education bursaries, emergency support funds, and the annual MS Family Conference. Last year WALKers raised over $700,000 provincially for the MS Society.
"Swift Current has wonderful community support," noted MS WALK organizer Laurel Gording. "A number of businesses have donated all the food that we're eating today, all the drinks, lots of door prizes from individuals in and around Swift Current.
"I think everybody is touched by someone they know who has MS, so it's nice to see such great support for everybody who comes out."
Director of Development for MS Saskatchewan, Lisa Smith, explained, "As an organization, we still are supporting some of the research that's going into the liberation treatment," essentially a balloon angioplasty to clear a condition described as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI.
"When it first originally came out, we were all excited about the possibility that it might be a cure for MS. Some of the preliminary research has shown it is not, but that doesn't mean it might not be a treatment option for some.
"As an organization, we support people to take care of their own health and to do what they need to do to help improve with the disease. Many people say they have improvements with diet, exercise, rest, reducing stress. Those are all things that help manage the disease. We have not stopped our funding into the liberation treatment, however we do not provide funding for people to receive the liberation treatment because the science is not there, and as an organization that's not what we do. We try to lobby for drugs to get on the formulary, so that they're more affordable for people."
The Society has also seen demand for its programs increase in the last year, particularly its Special Assistance and Caregiver Special Assistance Programs.
"The economy is hard right now," said Communications Manager Janet Nicolson, "and that means individuals may not have the money to spend on medical supplies, walking aids, or even groceries. MS is a very costly disease and we try and support that when possible."
One of the WALK participants, Arnold Wiebe, announced that Swift Current now has an MS Support Group that meets monthly at the Swift Current Library and features guest speakers.
"For the last six months we've been having meetings with people who have MS and their support people," said Wiebe, facilitator of the group.
"We're going to try to keep the support group going because we really believe that a support group is helpful. People with MS can share your stories."
The next meeting will be held June 18 at 7 p.m. with a naturopathic speaker. Contact Arnold Wiebe for more information at 306-773-7997 or 306-741-7797, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.