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Walk On

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Paul Conroy, Hedy Bluth and Judy Conroy cheer on the finishers of the fifth annual MS Challenge Walk at Kenmore Middle School.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that can prevent people from moving freely, but you wouldn’t know that judging by the 2007 MS Challenge Walk that took place last weekend.

Participants of the three-day walk, many of whom were diagnosed with MS themselves, walked more than 50 miles throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. to raise money for MS research and for support for families affected by MS.

The walk was organized by the National Capital chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Chris Broullire, the chapter’s president, said that the MS Challenge Walk, currently in its fifth year of existence, raised more than $700,000 in contributions. "It’s one of our biggest fundraisers," he said.

The walk was divided into three legs. On Sept. 28, participants walked from Rockville to Bethesda and slept at North Bethesda Middle School. On Sept. 29 the walkers headed from Bethesda to Kenmore Middle School in Arlington where they spent the night.

Then, on Sept. 30, walkers finished their journey on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

At Kenmore on Sept. 29, walkers tumbled into the school’s gym where they laid out their cots and air mattresses and tried to rest their tired feet.

Judy and Paul Conroy, of Reston, along with Hedy Bluth, of New York, were waiting for the walkers at the entrance of the gym with noise-makers and streamers.

"We know that the walkers are tired," said Bluth, who has been diagnosed with MS, "And we want them to know that we are encouraging their last steps."

Arlington resident Julie Gould has also been diagnosed with MS, but she chose to participate in the walk with a large group of her friends.

"It was very emotional and exciting," she said, "And at the same time, I was completely exhausted."

Gould was diagnosed with MS, an incurable neurological disease that affects the central nervous system, five years ago.

Since then she has run in two marathons in addition to the 50-mile walk she completed this weekend.

"People think that MS ruins your life," Broullire said, "But that’s just not the case."