Pat Cucci of Elk Grove Village was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010. On Sunday, May 4, he will take part in Walk MS, the largest annual fundraiser of the National MS Society, Greater Illinois Chapter, at the Northwest Suburbs location, Harper Community College, 1200 W. Algonquin Road, in Palatine. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m., and the Walk begins at 9 a.m.
The Northwest Suburbs walk -- one of 11 Walk MS events statewide -- brings people together to celebrate the progress and powerful connections made in the movement to end MS and raises funds for critical MS research, programs and services.
Pat's son, Nick, was worried about how life would change after the diagnosis. Along with his sister, Gina, and his mother, Joanne, he knew that they needed to make their house accessible and find ways to assist Pat after any falls. They had a lot to figure out as a family, but their biggest concern was whether or not Pat could continue doing the things that he loves. "He's played hockey his whole life -- will he ever skate again?" asked Nick. "Questions like this haunted us, but they also made us appreciate the importance of hope. We never give up hope that a cure will be found, and we can help to make that happen."
The Cuccis quickly became familiar with Walk MS after Pat's diagnosis. The family's neighbor Meghan Melone was diagnosed with MS at the age of 14, and she invited them to join her Walk team after hearing about Pat. Nick and his family were inspired by what they found at the event.
"We didn't know much about the event, but participating for the first time showed us that it was something special," Nick explained. "We wanted to come back the next year and be a bigger part of the movement, so we started Team Forza, finding inspiration in the Italian word for strength. The name fit perfectly with our belief that strength is an incredible asset in the fight against MS."
Nick and his family will be leading Team Forza as they join thousands of participants statewide and hundreds in the Northwest Suburbs for Walk MS 2014. Together they hope to raise money and awareness that will bring them closer to their goal of a world free of MS.
"Walk MS is the rallying point of our mission," said Nick on why he walks. "Walk MS is an event celebrating friendship, fundraising, empowerment, community and -- most significant to us -- strength. Through participating we see how his diagnosis makes us stronger."
Last year, more than 12,000 people participated in Walk MS throughout Illinois, raising over $2.7 million for critical MS research, programs and services. In 2013, Team Forza had more than 75 members and raised $15,000. This year, they hope to see both numbers continue to climb.
"On May 4 we will highlight our strengths and combat our challenges," said Nick. "Together, we envision a world free of MS and hope to realize this goal within our lifetime. I know that with the support of family, friends and other walkers, we will get closer every day."
Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease that interrupts the flow of information in the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. The Greater Illinois Chapter mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of more than 20,000 individuals in Illinois and 2.3 million worldwide affected by MS.
For information, visit MSillinois.org.
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