Multiple Sclerosis Association of America’s Nationwide Search Uncovers Inspiring Stories of People Living with MS Who Swim for Better Health

For MS Awareness Month, MSAA Launches Effort to Get More People with MS in the Pool

In honor of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA), through a collaborative partnership with Genzyme, a Sanofi company, is proud to announce the stories from three individuals in the MS community who describe how swimming has helped manage their MS symptoms and improve their overall well-being. Today, MSAA is unveiling their compelling stories captured on video at, along with new how-to resources about water-based exercise to help improve the lives of individuals living with MS.

During December, MSAA and Genzyme held a nationwide search through an initiative called Why I Swim to uncover the three most inspiring stories in the MS community, from those who are at different stages in their MS journey:

  • Mary Sypawka, from Harleysville, PA is a water aerobics enthusiast who has been living with MS for more than 20 years. She led the charge at her local YMCA to host classes and make the pool more accessible for people living with MS.
  • Mandy Iris Vercoe, from Flagstaff, AZ cherishes her time in the pool, swimming laps as a time for self-reflection and meditation. Diagnosed with MS two years ago, she is passionate about being an advocate for the MS community.
  • Ginny Oman, from Asheville, NC is a self-described strong woman full of determination and hope, who built her swimming routine from five minutes to 40 minutes over time, which has helped with her secondary progressive MS (SPMS). She is now a nationally certified fitness instructor.

“Swimming for me means freedom. When I’m in the pool, I can move without the restraints of my walker, or gravity, or anything,” said Ginny. “I started slow, but over time, swimming has brought me clarity, energy, and most of all joy. I’m so excited to be working with MSAA and Genzyme to share my story with the MS community. I hope that I can inspire people living with MS to go to the new online Aquatic Center and learn how to benefit from water-based exercise, like I have.”

Swimming and other forms of water-based exercise have well-established health benefits for many fitness levels. For people diagnosed with MS, the cooling and buoyant properties of water can create an ideal exercise environment, allowing for movements that may not be possible on land, while keeping them from overheating, which can trigger MS symptoms. Benefits of water-based exercise for people with MS include improved flexibility, muscle strength, mobility function, psychological well-being, and overall quality of life.

“Working together with a wide range of experts, and support from Genzyme, we are proud to be able to make the resources at our new Swim for MS online Aquatic Center available to help the entire MS community understand the benefits of water-based exercise,” said MSAA President and CEO, Douglas G. Franklin. “At MSAA, our mission is improving lives today. Through this program, we aim to bring the many benefits of aquatic exercise, both physical and emotional, to people living with MS with a range of mobility and skill levels.”

New print, video and web-based resources are now available on the Swim for MS online Aquatic Center, the most comprehensive aquatic exercise resource designed specifically for the MS community, located on Developed with help from experts in the field of aquatic exercise, rehabilitation therapy and MS, these resources are meant to help people living with MS and their care partners learn more and get started on a swim or aquatic exercise routine of their own, including:

  • Aquatic Exercise & Multiple Sclerosis: A Guide for Patients
  • Aquatic Exercise & Multiple Sclerosis: A Healthcare Professional’s Guide
  • Aquatic Exercise & MS Tip Sheet
  • Webinar: Discovering Aquatic Exercise and MS
  • Why I Swim Video Testimonials

Additional resources will be posted in the coming months, including a comprehensive nationwide listing of aquatics facilities.

“At Genzyme, we are driven by our unwavering commitment to the patient communities that we serve,” said Carole Huntsman, VP and MS Business Unit Head, North America, Genzyme. “We hope that by sharing these success stories and the important information on the Swim for MS online Aquatic Center that we’re proud to sponsor, we will inspire more people to be active and get in the pool.”

For more information on Swim for MS, the online Aquatic Center, and to sign up to learn more about this and future programs from MSAA and Genzyme, please visit

About Multiple Sclerosis
The most common neurological disorder diagnosed in young adults, multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. This disorder damages or destroys the protective covering (known as myelin) surrounding the nerves, causing reduced communication between the brain and nerve pathways. Common symptoms include visual problems, overwhelming fatigue, difficulty with balance and coordination, and various levels of impaired mobility. MS is not contagious or fatal.

About MSAA
The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with professional consultants; award-winning publications, including MSAA’s magazine, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website (at, featuring award-winning educational videos and research updates; S.E.A.R.C.H.™ program to assist the MS community with learning about different treatment choices; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™ (named one of the best multiple sclerosis iPhone & Android apps by; a resource database, My MS Resource Locator; safety and mobility equipment distribution; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; educational events held across the country; MRI funding; and more. For additional information, please visit or call (800) 532-7667.

About Genzyme, a Sanofi Company
Genzyme has pioneered the development and delivery of transformative therapies for patients affected by rare and debilitating diseases for over 30 years. We accomplish our goals through world-class research and with the compassion and commitment of our employees. With a focus on rare diseases and multiple sclerosis, we are dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of the patients and families we serve. That goal guides and inspires us every day. Genzyme’s portfolio of transformative therapies, which are marketed in countries around the world, represents groundbreaking and life-saving advances in medicine. As a Sanofi company, Genzyme benefits from the reach and resources of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, with a shared commitment to improving the lives of patients. Learn more at

About Sanofi
Sanofi, an integrated global healthcare leader, discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions focused on patients’ needs. Sanofi has core strengths in the field of healthcare with seven growth platforms: diabetes solutions, human vaccines, innovative drugs, consumer healthcare, emerging markets, animal health and the new Genzyme. Sanofi is listed in Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and in New York (NYSE: SNY).