‘Virtual’ walk to raise awareness, funds for MS

FLINT TWP. — A local woman is urging people to “walk with a purpose” to help raise awareness of and funds for multiple sclerosis research.

Alicia Gardner is hosting “Alicia’s Army Walk to End MS.” The Facebook event encourages people to wear camouflage or orange and head out for a walk any time Saturday, post pictures on the event page, and draw attention to, not just multiple sclerosis, but all causes.

“There are groups and organizations that rely on fundraisers for research and patient care,” said Gardner, of Flint Township. “If those aren’t happening (because of social distancing), it has long-term implications that we cannot advance medical science. As a patient, it scares me.”

Gardner – a registered nurse, U.S. Navy veteran and member of the Swartz Creek Community Schools Board of Education – was diagnosed with MS in November. In the past, she has worked and volunteered for the American Cancer Society.

“I personally have a connection to nonprofits,” she said. “I know and can appreciate the benefit of those organizations. They raise a lot of funds to do research; that is the number one need, as well as a lot of patient support.”

Gardner said one of the first things she did after receiving the diagnosis was reach out to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“I’m very grateful to have outstanding healthcare coverage,” she said. “But I know what I’m getting is because of great research. The one thing I could do was to give back and put a focus on something other than how I was feeling.”

So far, Gardner has raised about $1,600 through previous social media fundraisers and a Painting with a Twist party.

“The (MS) Society made an announcement pretty early on, because most fundraising events happen in April and May, that large-scale events were not going to happen this year, for the safety of patients and the community at large,” she said.

The national MS walk would have taken place in communities across the country May 16. In many places, they’re happening virtually.

Gardner will go live on Facebook as she heads out for her walk.

“If you’re able to get out and walk, at no specific times, just get outside and walk for a reason, take a picture and post it to our event page,” she said.

Anyone who wants to donate will find a link to the fundraising page on the event page.