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SUSAN BRESSLER: Join the walk to fight MS

I’d like to introduce you to two extraordinary women who don’t know one another but are joined together by the love of the same cause — the annual walk to benefit multiple sclerosis. Judy Swanson, 66, a Renton Villa resident, has been walking the four-mile walk in Seattle for 17 years! And, Marsha Baumann, also a Renton resident, has been walking the walk to benefit the MS Society for 12 years — the first year she was diagnosed with MS.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. It affects more than a third of a million Americans. Symptoms of the disease can be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, to very severe, causing paralysis, loss of vision and problems with balance, coordination and speech.

The walk, which will be held on April 11 this year, starts in Husky Stadium and ends in Gas Works Park. I’m told that the walk is a relatively “easy” four-mile walk. The goal for this year’s Seattle walk is $1.8 million. Baumann herself hopes to raise $11,000. She will walk with her team, “St. John the Baptist Warriors” this year. “I do it to be part of community,” she said, “and to have hope for a cure.” The first year she walked, when she saw all of the people at Husky stadium, she wept at the sight of all of the people assembled together, “all in the same boat,” trying to find cure partners.

Judy Swanson started walking because of a dear friend from Utah who was born with MS. Her enthusiasm for the event is unbridled. “This event is very very precious to me,” she said. “I have done a lot of things in my life, but nothing as important as this. It is a joy to be there.” She loves the camaraderie, the energy and the joyful spirit of those in attendance. She finds it a truly enjoyable experience. And, she’s quite a fundraiser as well! I wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving her apartment without handing over some cash! What’s even more extraordinary about Judy is that she does this year after year even though she lives with epileptic seizures. Quite a woman. Her team this year is called the Bunnies, so they should be easy to spot with their pink ears!

When Judy isn’t training for the MS Walk, she also volunteers and works out at the Senior Center. Baumann is also an active volunteer in the Renton community. Baumann pointed out that not only do the funds raised from the walk go toward research at finding a cure, local programs are also available in the form of women’s and couple’s retreats, and emotional health-care assistance. They are two extraordinary women, doing extraordinary things, in the face of serious health problems and doing it without complaint. I think I’ll get out my walking shoes and walk with them this year. Won’t you?

Susan Bressler is an active member of a number of Renton organizations, including Piazza Renton. E-mail her at scbressler@comcast.net.

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