LANCASTER – Local mechanic Joe Perrin could barely contain his emotion as he spoke of his family’s decision to participate in Walk MS: Antelope Valley.
“I found out I had multiple sclerosis in early January of this year and it’s a new procedure for me,” Perrin said. “Since I can’t do the walk because my legs are too weak, my family got together and decided to walk for me.”
Perrin’s family joined hundreds of participants Saturday morning for Walk MS: Antelope Valley, the annual event that raises money and awareness for the thousands of local residents affected by multiple sclerosis.
“This year we have about 1,700 participants and close to 100 teams,” said organizer Christine Grontkowski, Community Development Manager for the National MS Society in the Antelope Valley. “We just continue to grow.”
The event kicked off around 9:30 a.m. Saturday with opening ceremonies at Lancaster Marketplace.
Two participants were chosen for volunteer and inspiration awards. The 2013 Most Valuable Volunteer Award went to Michelle Webb from Northrop Grumman, who was participating in her fifth straight Walk MS in the Antelope Valley.
“She is a huge part of the planning process of this from the very beginning,” Grontkowski said. “She’s also so connected in the community to get certain people and certain donations for our event, and she somehow rounded up 100 of her closest co-workers and family and friends to join.”
Sherry Prieto of MOMS – Move Over MS won the Most Inspirational Walker Award for the second straight year.
“She has had many health obstacles over the course of the past year, she was forced to retire from her teaching job,” said presenter Sandy Kredo. “She has put 100% of her efforts now into fundraising for MS…she raised, alone for her team, over $11,000 and there’s more money coming in.”
“This MS thing is a beast of a disease,” said Prieto, who was diagnosed about two years ago. “Some of you are out there with MS and you’d never know it, and then there are others that are a little more challenged, such as myself… we gotta find the cause and then we gotta find the cure.”
After opening ceremonies, the massive crowd took to the streets of Lancaster. Participants had the choice of two routes: a 1K walk headed south on Valley Central Way to Avenue J and then north on Valley Central Way back to Lancaster Marketplace; and a 5K walk headed west on Lancaster Boulevard, south on 32nd Street past Lancaster High School, east on Avenue J to Valley Central Way and then north on Valley Central Way back to Lancaster Marketplace.
Jose Gutierrez, who recently ran the Boston Marathon, was first to cross the finish line. Gutierrez, who ran the 5K route with his team, Zumba in Rosamond, was not even aware that he had “won.”
“I’m supporting a family member of one of the [Zumba] students,” Gutierrez said. “An event like this is very important.”
When participants crossed the finish line, they were greeted with hearty applause and awarded medals by members of Dazzler Cheer.
“We directly don’t have anybody that has MS in our group, but we thought it would be a great opportunity for our girls to get out in the public and show their support for this cause,” said coach Jennifer Elizondo.
Among the first teams to cross the finish line were the seven members of the Perrin family. Joe Perrin joined Dazzler Cheer in greeting his family at the finish line.
“I’ve always catered to people, and to see people turn around and give it back to me, my heart just opens up for that,” Joe Perrin said. “It’s our first year participating in something like this, and hopefully, it will be one of many to come.”
Funds raised from Walk MS: Antelope Valley will benefit the Southern California & Nevada Chapter of the National MS Society.
For a complete list of teams that participated in Walk MS: Antelope Valley 2013, click here.
For more information on multiple sclerosis, the National MS Society and how you can support this cause, call 800.FIGHT.MS or visit www.nationalMSsociety.org/cal.
From more sights from 2013 Walk MS Antelope Valley here.