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Published: Monday, 4/11/2005

Sunny skies help MS fund-raiser

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Shelly Knapik, far left, holds her daughter, Casey, 6, in a wheelchair as it is pushed along the route by her husband, Bob. Shelly Knapik, far left, holds her daughter, Casey, 6, in a wheelchair as it is pushed along the route by her husband, Bob.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

For Madelyn Rawson and her family, yesterday's 10-mile walk to raise money for the local Multiple Sclerosis organization was a no-brainer.

Their good friend, Shelly Knapik, suffers from MS.

"It was fun to do this for Shelly," Mrs. Rawson said, shortly after completing the walk, which took three hours and was staged in Ottawa Hills.

The Rawsons joined about 1,500 other participants in the annual MS Walk, benefiting the Northwest Ohio chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Tricia Courtney, the chapter's spokesman, said the turnout was the best in the 14 years the event has been held.

Temperate, sunny weather helped the approximately 100 participants with the central nervous system disorder - a number of them in wheelchairs, including Mrs. Knapik, 43 - who joined the walkers.

"People with MS have trouble with cold or warm weather," Ms. Courtney said.

Joining the event were the women's basketball and men's hockey teams from Bowling Green State University. Jordan Sigalet, of the BGSU hockey team, was diagnosed with MS in November.

Yet he completed the season and was named one of the country's top 10 goalies.

Ms. Courtney said there are varying degrees of MS, making it sometimes difficult to tell when someone is afflicted.

"I have MS," she said. "But you can't tell. Sometimes it's the invisible stuff that is the worst - pain, fatigue, numbness, and cognitive difficulties."

Mrs. Knapik's illness is more severe, yet she did five miles in her wheelchair, which was pushed by her husband, Bob. Her children, Allen, 10, and Casey, 6, joined them.

"It was a really nice get-together," Mr. Knapik said.

Mrs. Rawson recruited about 40 members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, where the Knapiks are members, to join the walk.

"I think it's important to raise money, but the camaraderie and friendship involved in getting people from the church together is just as important," Mrs. Rawson said.

She was joined by her husband, Dana, and children, Hunter, 10, Shae, 9, Maretta, 8, and Kallen, 3, and a friend, Lori King.

The 10 miles took their toll on Hunter.

"My feet are sore," he said.

Ms. King, an OLPH church member, said she also was walking for her sister, Lynn Borgia, 45, of Norwalk, Ohio, who has advanced MS and lives in a nursing home.

Mr. Knapik said his family appreciates the backing they have received from OLPH members, who also occasionally cook meals and transport Mrs. Knapik to physician appointments.

Ms. Courtney said organizers hope to raise more than $200,000 from the MS Walk - the group's biggest fund-raiser of the year.

The chapter also will sponsor walks in Lima and Mansfield on April 30, in Defiance and Lorain on May 7, and Findlay on May 14.

Ms. Courtney said about 3,000 Northwest Ohioans have MS.

Contact George J. Tanber at: gtanber@theblade.com or 734-241-3610.



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