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McLean Resident Volunteers for MS Walk

Lisa Samuels gets involved for her aunt.

McLean resident Lisa Samuels, 31, is combating multiple sclerosis, or MS, by volunteering in the three-day, 50-mile Multiple Sclerosis Challenge Walk scheduled for Oct. 1-3.

The walk will begin in Prince George's County, Md., and end in Washington, D.C, on the west lawn of the Capitol.

Equaling or bettering last year's fund-raising goal of $1,800 is Samuels' goal for this year. In 2003, she raised $2,500. She credits the generosity of her friends and family for her success at fund raising. "I am a vehicle for people to contribute,” she said. Pledges for the challenge walk can be made online at www.MSandYou.org.

Abra Frankel, communications director of the National Capital Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, said of Lisa's ability to raise money, "She gives a personal edge to it. Those people who have a connection to the disease tend to be more motivated. They educate their donors."

Samuels' connection and inspiration is her 54-year-old aunt, Hedy Bluth, who has multiple sclerosis, a disease that ravages the nervous system. "One morning my aunt woke up blind in one eye. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis four years ago and has had symptoms for 30 years. Leg pain, numbness and optic nerve disorders are severe problems that occur periodically. Drugs have lessened their severity,” she said.

Due to the demands of her new job as publications specialist at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Samuels will not be walking in the Challenge Walk this year. The native of Wilmington, Del. and 1997 graduate of Drake University will serve as a crew member, assisting walkers at rest stops and performing various other responsibilities.

When she is not working, Lisa enjoys travelling, spending time with friends, drinking wine at vineyards and wine festivals, camping and hiking, and going to concerts at Wolf Trap. A dog lover who is blessed with many friends, Lisa enjoys playing hostess to a friend’s canine when his/her human is away. The National Capitol Multiple Sclerosis Society's goal is to raise $800,000 from the walk. Some money will be distributed for research grants, to universities and to the National Institutes of Health. Sixty percent of the funds will be allocated locally for prescription drugs and programs such as an emergency equipment and loan fund, which provides hospital equipment such as respirators for MS patients in need. It will also fund a camp for children ages 8-18 who have a parent stricken with MS.

"The illness is chronic," Hedy Bluth said. "You keep going. You try to ignore that you have it. You make believe that you don't know you have it, that others don't know. By denying it, you begin not to care, and others begin not to care.

" I met Lisa at the finish line. When I saw 1,000 people together — 800 of whom were walking, 200 who were supporting — it was moving and touching. After September 11th, people are skeptical of strangers. It was a rebirth to see that people still care."