PEMBROKE — Living with multiple sclerosis is a challenge physically, but also comes with a financial burden.
Just ask Mary Locklear, whose family went through those difficulties when her brother, Rhett Anthony Locklear, was diagnosed with primary progressive MS, which is the most aggressive form of the disease.
He died at age 44 in 2014 and it is in his memory and to help other families going through what the Locklears experienced that the third annual End of MS Forever Walk-A-Thon took place on Saturday.
The Pembroke Recreational Complex looked like a small street festival with food vendors, musicians, face painting, and children playing, but the reason for the festivities was to raise money for MS support programs and for research, Locklear said. About 50 people walked the track in honor and in memory of those who have been diagnosed with MS and raised about $3,200.
The money will be used to help with MS patients’ expenses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hospital, Locklear said. Some of the money will go to pay forres earch.
There is no cure for MS, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms.
Recalling her brother’s battle with MS, Locklear said the family didn’t know much about the disease. To raise awareness about MS is one of the goals of the event.
“I didn’t realize how many people we have around us that are affected,” she said. “There are people that have reached out to me since we started this. They were looking for a social event to be around people with the same symptoms that they have.”
The four types of MS are relapsing-remitting, primary progressive, secondary progressive, and clinically isolated syndrome, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Sheneen Lowry, who was selling Italian ice to raise money for the cause, has relapsing and remitting MS. She was diagnosed with it about five years ago. Lowry appreciates Locklear’s efforts.
“It means a lot to me simply because I live with MS,” Lowry said. “There are a lot of people who live with MS. I see people who are able to walk, to talk, and to do everything in their usual routine, and I see other people that are in wheelchairs that can hardly move or get out of the house.”
Lowry said she knows the donations will be used well.
“This helps raise money that helps people, maybe who need a wheelchair ramp,” Lowry said. “It helps with speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy where they can receive this help through the MS Society, through MS Walks and through various MS funds.”
Lowry wants to clear up a misconception that many people have.
“From personal experience, I say, ‘We are not contagious,’” Lowry said. “It’s just that our immune system attacks our brains and certain aspects of our bodies. It disables us in certain ways.”
Locklear is hopeful that a major sponsor can be found for future events, saying she has had to take on many of the expenses herself.
“I would love for someone to come in and help by being a sponsor,” Locklear said.
For information, call Locklear at 910-723-7570.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.