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‘Go-Getters’ prepare to go get ‘em again

Mary Chase and Colleen Sazama are once again pounding the pavement in and around Perham to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis (MS) and garner support for their cause.

This week, March 11-17, is MS Awareness Week.

In a press release to the Perham Focus, the local women said that, “this year we are focusing on building the very thing MS seeks to destroy: connections. We are getting the word out to our family, to our friends and to our community. We are sharing what MS is and how we are doing something about it.”

Chase and Sazama have been reaching out to the community in this way for years. The two met in 1998, and became fast friends. They started two local MS support groups, a Self Help Group and a Care Partner Group, which both meet the last Tuesday of the month at Calvary Lutheran Church in Perham from 1-2 p.m. About 10 to 15 people usually attend.

Affiliated with the MS Society, the groups offer a way to stay on top of current research, treatment options and education opportunities associated with MS. The society also provides financial assistance through aids for daily living, respite care programs, chore services, rides to meetings and more.

But, even more importantly, the Self Help and Care Partner groups get people together, to share their experiences and feel less alone.

“The groups help us connect with other people affected by MS; we learn valuable information and ways to cope with our challenges,” Chase and Sazama stated in the release. “The best thing is to be able to connect up with someone who can say, ‘Been there, done that.’ Although MS is very individualized – no two people are alike – the camaraderie of our group helps us deal with the challenges we face.”

In 2000, Chase and Sazama also formed the area’s first Walk MS team, the “Go-Getters.” The annual Walk MS event, which raises money for research and services that improve the quality of life for people with MS, turns 25 this year.

Last year, the “Go-Getters” won the Top Friends and Family Award, along with the title of Largest Team, at the local Walk MS. This year’s walk will be held in Fergus Falls at the community college from noon to 2 p.m. on May 5.

The “Go-Getters” will also be having their annual pizza fundraiser at Pizza Ranch in Perham on April 16 from 5-7 p.m.

Donations go toward MS research and the search for a cure.

According to Chase and Sazama, MS is a disease for which there is no known cure or cause. It is more common among women, and among those who grew up in colder climates. Symptoms vary from person to person and may come and go; they may be mild, moderate or severe.

“When describing MS, we compare the nerves to an electrical wire that has coating on it,” they explained. “For whatever reason, our immune system chooses to attack the wire and destroy the coating. When this happens, the flow of information between the brain and the body gets interrupted and the signals do not get through correctly.”

MS can cause numbness, blurred vision and complete paralysis. It is not contagious, and it is rarely fatal. But it is unpredictable. There is a newly diagnosed person each hour and most are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with about two thirds being women.

For more information or to support the “Go-Getters,” contact Mary Chase at 298-0561 or Colleen Sazama at 758-2502.