Kelli Velasquez, surrounded by loved ones, left her wheelchair behind and walked across the finish line at the Oberlin Multiple Sclerosis Walk on Saturday.
She was diagnosed 23 years ago and every powerful step symbolized moving closer to finding a cure.
Nearly 300 people attended the walk with one goal in mind: to eradicate the disease forever.
Teams wearing bright orange walked a two-and-a-half-mile route downtown, with many participants savoring a day of support.
“This is my event!” Wendy Sliman cheered. “Well, me and thousands of other people.” She was diagnosed when she was a teenager and has attended the Oberlin walk for the last seven years.
MS disrupts communication between the brain and the body. Patients can endure a wide range of symptoms as the disease gnaws away at the nerve endings in the brain, the spinal cord, and even the eyes.
Worldwide, the MS toll may run as high as 2.5 million people, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The exact cause is unknown but doctors suspect it comes from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Some people may be symptom-free most of their lives, while others can have severe chronic symptoms that never go away.
Johnny Ice, 57, was diagnosed in 1995 and has been slowly declining in function over the years, his wife Kim said.
Until a cure is found, her solution is a bright attitude.
“My husband is a very positive man and I try to be very positive for him, which we believe to be half the battle,” she said. “It’s not a death sentence like a lot of people believe.”
There will be challenges but they can be overcome with support and help, she said.
“Life is good,” she smiled. “Life is good.”
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.