Walking for a cause

Third annual Multiple Sclerosis walk to be held at Swinehart Field


Dominic Lount, Reporter

On Sunday May 5, there will be a group of people gathering at Swinehart Field. This will not be for any athletic event, but instead for raising money and awareness for a disease that affects many lives all over the world.

At age 13, Utica alumna Ashley Michol was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease that primarily affects the central nervous system and the brain. It can result in symptoms such as speech or swallowing problems, walking difficulties, fatigue and many more.

“When I first got diagnosed I was embarrassed and scared about my illness,” Michol said.  “I didn’t know what it was or how it was going to continue to affect me.”

As she continued playing softball and swimming throughout high school, her symptoms began to worsen due to the heat (typical in MS patients), and she could not hide it any longer. Instead of only battling the disease, she took it a step further, starting a walk known as “Sisters Walking for MS.” This is a walk that helps raise money to assist in finding a cure for the disease.

“I had a huge change of heart and decided to embrace it and raise money and awareness for a cure,” Michol said, “and it is a great way to get everyone together.”

The walk has been an annual event for the past three years, and the last two years being at Comerica Park. In year one, $3,190 was raised, while year two raised as much as $4,000.

“I remember when Ashley was here and started running the MS walk for the first time,” principal Tom Lietz said. “I think it’s great, and that’s why I’ve been announcing it every day.”

This year, the walk will be a little closer to home, but Michol hopes for more money raised, and a better attendance than in the years past.

“My goals for this year,” Michol said, “are to raise at least $5,000 dollars which would be the most Team Ashley has raised, as well as to get 200 plus people there to support and enjoy walking with Team Ashley.”

Since Michol graduated from Utica a couple of years ago, her sister, senior Lindsey Michol, has helped spread the word on the upcoming walk to Utica students and faculty. She and her younger sister, sophomore Haley Michol, help their sister by selling t-shirts as well as encouraging people to attend.

“I have been putting flyers around the school to spread the word,” Michol said, “selling t-shirts and pre-registration for the walk at lunches.”

Many members of the Utica staff are impressed about what the Michol sisters are doing, and hope the fundraiser has another successful year raising money for Multiple Sclerosis.

“I think its awesome,” Lietz said, “and I think Ms. Michol is doing some great work there for her and her sister.”

More than 2.3 million people have been diagnosed with MS around the world, with one million people over 18 being diagnosed in the United States alone. There are different types of MS, ranging from least to most severe, and Michol’s goal is to raise money to help end all forms of the disease.

“Relapse Remitting is the least severe, which I have,” Michol said. “Primary Progressive MS is a gradual progression of symptoms worsening, and Secondary Progressive MS is diagnosed if a patient is transitioning from Relapse Remitting and symptoms continue to get worse.”

The walk will begin at noon and will end at 2 p.m., and the registration fee will be $10. T-Shirts will also be sold, $10 for a short sleeve shirt and $15 dollars for a long sleeve, with all the proceeds going to MS research to help find a cure. Even if a person cannot make it to the walk, Michol encourages people to still donate to the cause, as it does way more than just trying to find a cure.

“If you have a family member or a friend that battles an illness, you would want someone to donate to their cause,” Michol said, “and by donating even $1 it will go toward more than just research, as it goes towards funding equipment for patients, therapies, and so many other incredible resources for everyone living with this disease.”

“Team Ashley” hopes many Utica students will turn out for the event, as the high schools students and faculty have shown to be very supportive and involved in charity events in the past.

“Anything somebody does for somebody other than themselves is a great thing,” Lietz said, “and I think it’s important that we do those things, for kids to run something like a charity is a big deal.”

There are many different things people could enjoy about the MS walk, but one common theme among all walkers would be raising money for something that affects so many around the world, in hopes of finding a cure.

“My favorite part about the walk,” Michol said, “is getting together with my sister and finding new ideas to spread awareness and to help raise more money for the MS society.”