This season, the Fargo Marathon will be teaming up with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis research. The disease causes the immune system to attack myelin, the fatty sheath that protects the connections between nerve cells, and can break down nervous system function over time. North Dakota has the highest incidence of MS in the country.

In the past, the Fargo Marathon has only partnered with the Cancer Society, but this year they have opened up their registration process to other charity organizations.

“We thought this year would be a great year to introduce it to the Fargo Marthon,” said Amy Hinkemeyer, senior development manager for the Fargo chapter of the MS Society.

This program is the latest addition to an arsenal of charity sporting events that the MS Society puts on nationally each year. The Fargo Marathon will be included under the program titled RunMS, but the MS society also sponsors charity walks and bike rides known as WalkMS and BikeMS. But according to Hinkemeyer, the MS Society has high hopes for the future of RunMS in the Fargo Marathon because of its high profile in the athletic community.

“Because it’s such as huge event, it’s a big awareness piece too,” Hinkemeyer said.

Sheri Paulson is a North Dakota resident who actively fundraises for the MS Society all around the nation and has raised money for MS on her own in past Fargo Marathons. Paulson is also an MS patient. She believes that runners can benefit from the new partnership between the MS Society and the Fargo Marathon because it will give them more reasons to run.

“It encourages people to promote them and promote good health, while fundraising at the same time,” she said.

Unlike other sporting events that the MS society sponsors, which require participants on the MS society team to raise a certain amount of money before being eligible to participate, marathon runners on the MS Society team only need to pay the same $25 registration fee that all other runners must pay. However, they can expect certain perks the day of the event, such as free massages and private gear check-in at the Fargo Dome.

Hinkemeyer said this year, they are simply hoping to get people to sign up so that the team grows as the years go on, and so that people in the community are aware of what they can do to help fight MS.

However, any money that the event does raise will be used to fund more research about what causes MS, possible cures and therapy options. It will also be used to fund support services for patients because the few therapies and medications currently used to treat MS are costly, and many patients don’t know where they can turn for help after a diagnosis.

“Research for MS is moving forward everyday so that people with MS can still work, be active, and continue on with their daily activities,” said Erica Johnsrud, a Concordia student who is currently an intern for the MS Society. “Patient programs are important so that people living with MS can find out more about the disease as well as where they can go to find help with symptoms as well as financial support.”

Currently the MS Society’s team has under 20 runners registered, but they hope to have as many as 50 by the day of the event. Both Hinkemeyer and Johnsrud stressed the need for volunteers as well.

“Students can choose to get together and raise funds and take part in the events or volunteer at any of them,” Johnsrud said.

Paulson also believes that the experience of preparing for a charity run is the most meaningful part for any participant because when they fundraise for a cause, it holds them accountable to finishing the race. Finishing, she said, is the most important part of achieving this goal.

“Times are forgotten,” she said. “Finishes are not.”

Information about registering to run or volunteer can be found online at http://www.nationalmssociety.org/chapters/NTH/index.aspx.

Mary Beenken

I am a senior English writing major and political science minor at Concordia College, but I originally hail from Fort Collins, Colorado. I have a deep passion for humanitarian aid and the power of the written word. I am currently the Editor-in-Chief of the 2011-2012 Concordian, though on occasion I also write and take pictures.

Dream job: hybrid freelance journalist/human rights lawyer.

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