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MS Center enriching lives of residents

Marco Island Eagle - 9/1/2017

Back in 1956, every boy I knew was in love with Annette, the beautiful star of the "Mickey Mouse Club." I'd hurry home from school to watch my favorite Mouseketeer on TV.

Annette Funicello went on to star in the "Beach Party" series of movies in the 60's, but in 1992 she announced she'd been diagnosed with MS, multiple sclerosis.

I, for one, knew very little about the disease. I've learned since that MS is a chronic and disabling disorder that attacks the central nervous system – the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs; or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision.

Unfortunately, we don't know the cause yet, and there's no cure at the moment.

What I can tell you today, though, is that there's help readily available for our fellow Collier County residents who are dealing with multiple sclerosis on a daily basis.

The MS Center of Southwest Florida offers a comprehensive wellness program designed to help manage the disease and resulting pain, improve mobility and decrease isolation, said Kay Jasso, the executive director.

"Our mission is to enrich the quality of life for those affected by MS," Jasso said. "Our services such as massage therapy, acupuncture, mental health counseling, support groups, yoga, art classes, balance and strength training and educational activities are available at little to no cost."

Then there's a unique therapeutic horseback riding program for exercise, balance and posture, which is conducted by the Naples Equestrian Challenge.

"With all of the services we offer, the people we help see us as a lifeline, and they are incredibly grateful for all that we do," Jasso said.

One of their clients said: "They helped me feel I'm not alone. There are others just like me."

Lynda, who was diagnosed with MS in 1998, said "one of the best things I ever did to contribute to the quality of my own life was to walk through the center's front door. How wonderful to be surrounded by individuals, resources and programs to help us live life to its fullest."

Harry Grimm is a foundation training instructor. "The clients I work with, living in the present and looking to the future while tackling the obstacles of MS, are truly an inspiration to me," Grimm said.

The center, the only organization providing direct services to people with MS in Southwest Florida, was founded in 2000 by Debbie Heil and Lisa Luthringer, who both have MS. Jasso was named executive director in 2015.

"I personally witness the dramatic differences in people after they join the MS Center, "Jasso said. "I often see people progress from barely moving to moving freely and walking with less difficulty. I also observe differences in our clients' demeanor and attitude, going from appearing sad and feeling hopeless to being cheerful and optimistic. I am truly inspired to know that the services we provide are helping to alleviate the suffering experienced by people with MS."

This past year, those services have been expanded with the addition of many new classes and programs thanks to a move to a larger location.

You should know that the MS Center of Southwest Florida is not a local chapter of a national organization. The center does not receive any government funding and is solely supported by individual donations, foundation grants, and fundraising events. And the support they receive helps local people exclusively.

If you know of someone who might need to take advantage of the services provided, or if you are interested in volunteering or donating, simply visit www.mscenterswfl.org.

Joe Landon is a communications consultant having retired as executive director of communications for the Collier County School District. Please send suggestions for future columns to JoeLandon@Outlook.com.

Making a Difference

Joe Landon

 
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