Conquer MG takes aim at rare disease with 10th annual Viking Challenge

  • Janet Bauer, center, is joined by her brothers Jim Bychowski, left and Jon Bychowski as she walks in the 10th annual Viking Challenge for MG on June 19 at Berens Park in Elmhurst.

    Janet Bauer, center, is joined by her brothers Jim Bychowski, left and Jon Bychowski as she walks in the 10th annual Viking Challenge for MG on June 19 at Berens Park in Elmhurst. Courtesy of Jeff Wincentsen

Updated 7/25/2022 12:19 PM

Over 100 people gathered on June 19, 2022, at Berens Park in Elmhurst, Illinois, to kick off the 10th annual Viking Challenge for Myasthenia Gravis. It was the first in-person event for this group in two years, and each person was prepared to rally in support of those who struggle with the rare autoimmune disease called "MG" for short.

With the aid of another 37 individuals who participated virtually, the event netted $43,000 for Conquer Myasthenia Gravis.


These funds will help the nonprofit organization provide programs of support, education, awareness, and research funding for MG patients.

This year's Challenge marked Conquer MG's 10th annual Chicago-area walk to lift up individuals who have myasthenia.

The organization also is celebrating its 50th year of serving the MG community.

Conquer MG Board President Bob Rosecrans noted, "We began in 1972, when 'The Godfather' was in movie theaters. Scientists were just beginning to understand MG as an autoimmune disease."

Rosecrans explained, "Many of us have had our health affected by MG -- or seen a family member stricken. We walk to promote awareness, support our loved ones, and to support others who have this difficult disease."

Named the "Viking Challenge for MG," the event inspires those affected to act like warriors to conquer myasthenia.

This year's event honored the memory of Tracy Shackelford, who passed away suddenly in August 2021. Tracy was active on the Conquer MG board and was dedicated to supporting the MG community.

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"My whole family comes out for this event," said Janet Bauer. She was diagnosed 35 years ago when symptoms of muscle weakness disrupted her day-to-day life. "Some years I can walk a lap, other years I can't. But I enjoy coming -- these are my people!"

After participants completed the three-mile walk, Rosecrans presented Conquer MG's first Tracy Shackelford MG Service Award to Mary Kay Hoffmann of Glenview.

Up until the pandemic Mary Kay led the Chicago North Suburban MG Support Group.

In nominating Mary Kay, a group member explained, "She made meetings informative, accessible, comfortable and fun. She encouraged each of us on a path to be successful in our health goals, and always was available to answer questions. Mary Kay continues to go the extra mile to reach out and keep MG patients connected."

The Conquer MG Board also recognized the contributions of longtime Executive Director Joan Wincentsen.

In announcing the Above and Beyond Award, board Secretary Tammy Carter noted Wincentsen is known "for always exceeding expectations, always reaching above and beyond in the service of individuals who have myasthenia."


Wincentsen responded, "I never thought my own illness would lead to meaningful work! I have great sympathy for people dealing with chronic illness like MG. The fears you have about health and relationships and your personal value can be so challenging."

About Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease that causes fluctuating weakness. It can affect muscles that control eye movements, eyelids, chewing, swallowing, breathing, coughing and facial expression, as well as the arms and legs. Conquer MG has been providing patient support and education and funding research for 50 years.

Conquer Myasthenia Gravis (formerly known as the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of Illinois) was founded in 1972 by a grass-roots group of caring patients, family members and physicians who wanted to help patients achieve the best quality of life, while living with and managing their chronic illness. Since its start in Chicago, this organization has expanded its coverage from Illinois to serve patients in northwest Indiana and southeast Wisconsin.

In June 2016, the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of Illinois adopted a new name and logo. As Conquer Myasthenia Gravis (Conquer MG for short), it remains an independent nonprofit organization, rooted in its mission to facilitate the timely diagnosis and optimal care of individuals affected by myasthenia gravis and to improve their lives through programs of patient services, public awareness, medical research, professional education, advocacy and patient care.

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