Participants in the annual Jayman Built MS Walk in Yellowknife on May 24 saw that the event was a bit different this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event, which started locally in 2013 by Laurie McLean, did not take part in a group setting as has been normal. Typically every year the walk takes place and offers two routes – a two-kilometre route and a five-km route. The event usually begins at Mildred Hall School, goes down Franklin Avenue and around to Somba K’e Civic Plaza before heading down the McMahon-Frame Lake Trail back to the school again.
Last year, the walk drew 152 participants and raised $34,000.
Yellowknife falls under the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada Alberta and Northwest Territories Division, which is headquartered in Edmonton. Money raised goes into a single pot for the region and is distributed for programs and services related to the disease.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada issued a news release on May 22 explaining that instead of holding walks due to public health restrictions, it was promoting an MS Awareness Month and launch of #WeChallengeMS – a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the disease.
As part of that effort, McLean has been walking every day in May – an average daily 5 km- to raise awareness. To date she has raised $4,000 in donations.
“And so far from May 1 till now, 116 kilometres I’ve walked so not bad.”
“That’s what I decided to do, yeah, because normally we would have actual MS walk and everybody would get together and that. So I decided that well we can’t this year so I’m going to do it every day of May, and ask for donations so so far I’ve got $4,000 in donations.”
McLean said however, that many people were welcome to raise donations through hobbies or skills that might bring awareness of the disease. She said there have been returning participants and many who continued to support the effort this year.
“We’ve had quite a few of the people that normally participate in the walk, that have gone online and are going for donations and stuff like that,” she said. “So I can’t tell you how much we brought in yet because people are still getting their funds together and stuff like that. But it looks like we probably did all right considering Covid. I mean you know that’s kind of set everybody back and we all kind of feel bad asking people for money during this time, because we don’t tell everybody is.”
The biggest thing about the annual walk is the ability for the organization to increase awareness about the disease and to get sufferers to talk more openly about it.
“Within the last eight years since I stepped up and started trying to get it out there definitely have a lot more (involved with the walk),” McLean said. “There is a lot more information getting out to the people who need it, and support.”
McLean said that over the last seven years, the organization has been able to provide adaptive yoga in the city. There are also monthly support groups, which McLean runs and she also helps people apply for funding if they need walkers, air conditioners, or other medical assistance.
“The other thing too is that it brings people together. And I know from the beginning, a lot of people would not talk about their MS,” she said. “And now they’re coming out and they’re talking to other people and saying yeah I have MS and this is what I’ve been through.”
McLean knows of about 40 people in the Northwest Territories with MS, most of whom are in Yellowknife.
Multiple sclerosis is defined as a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system, according to MS Society of Canada.
McLean explained that the disease is “episodic” meaning that sufferers can see periods of unwell feeling followed by periods of wellness.
Typically people are diagnosed with the disease between the ages of 20 and 49 and carry symptoms throughout the remainder of their lives.