Up Front: Needs of the MS Community Are Greater than Ever

Photo of Gina Ross Murdoch
Gina Ross Murdoch

By Gina Ross Murdoch
MSAA President and CEO

In the previous issue of The Motivator, I talked about how life had turned upside-down for virtually everyone in the United States and for many throughout the world as a result of the pandemic. I expressed our hope that everyone is staying healthy and safe… and that our hearts go out to all those who have been directly affected by this virus. I expressed our gratitude to the medical professionals and first responders, who risk their own safety to help others… and our gratitude also went out to all of the essential workers who provide the vital products and services needed to ensure our safety and wellbeing.

While we all hoped that this wouldn’t be the case, six months later, my message has not changed. Our country’s activities are all still greatly restricted, as we wait for the nationwide infection rates to drop and for an approved vaccine to become available. We continue to express our wishes for good health to the MS community, and gratitude to those who are making personal sacrifices for others. And as we all try to balance family and home responsibilities, social distancing and virtual schooling, as well as financial burdens, along with so many other challenges, we know that the mental and emotional toll is significant.

Sadly, the nation’s challenges reach well beyond those of the pandemic, including racial injustice, acts of violence, and senseless loss of life. Please know that MSAA advocates equally for members of the MS community, and supports peaceful efforts aimed at erasing the inequalities that exist between people of different races, religions, gender, and economic backgrounds, as well as those with disabilities. For our full statement, please visit mymsaa.org/msaa-statement.

I also want to acknowledge all of the losses associated with recent natural disasters, most notably severe weather and raging wildfires. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been affected by these unprecedented conditions, and we hope that these families and communities will have the ability and strength to rebuild and recover as quickly as possible.

In an effort to help our readers and as many members of the MS community as possible, this issue’s cover story focuses on promoting mental and emotional wellness during these difficult times. We hope that you find this article to be beneficial, and for those who may be struggling, we hope it will provide both comfort and positive direction.

As readers can imagine, the needs of the MS community are greater than ever. Many households have seen a reduction in income, which means that purchasing much-needed equipment – for safety or symptom relief – may not be possible. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is critical to patient care, and yet is often impossible for many to afford. Providing free safety and mobility equipment, as well as MRI funding, are just two of MSAA’s programs that are always vitally needed. Additionally, particularly at this time of self-isolation, loneliness, and worry for the future, MSAA’s Client Services Specialists are available to address callers’ concerns, offer understanding, and provide vital solutions and resources. Many people may also benefit by joining My MSAA Community, a safe, peer-to-peer online forum. For more information, please visit healthunlocked.com/msaa.

In addition to our established programs, MSAA understands the value of providing critical, timely, and accurate information, and developed initiatives including a COVID-19 “hub” on our website, as well as a series of webinars specifically addressing the coronavirus and its impact on the MS community. In July, MSAA launched MSAA’s “COVID-19 and MS Pathfinder,” a digital tool for the MS community to access vital information related to the pandemic. For more information, please see “Program Notes.”

While we are doing our very best to meet the needs of the MS community, at the same time, we need additional contributions to keep our free programs and services running at full capacity. Support is truly appreciated and contributions may be made in several ways! To make a convenient online donation, please visit mymsaa.org/donate. Additionally, MSAA offers several “Shop and Support” options, in which a percentage of online purchases is donated to MSAA. Interested individuals may also enroll in a matching-gifts program through their employer, or hold a virtual fundraiser. For more information on ways to support our mission, please see “Thoughts about Giving.”

The year 2020 will be remembered for COVID-19 and its impact on not only the United States, but throughout the world. However, having opened our doors in 1970, I also hope that 2020 will be remembered in recognition of MSAA’s 50 years of service and its impact on people living with MS. On behalf of MSAA, I once again send our wishes of good health and safety during this challenging time. In addition, I want to express our appreciation for any support you are able to provide… and please know that your support truly Improves Lives Today for the MS community, each and every day.

Gina Ross Murdoch is a seasoned executive in non-profit management. Her career includes leadership positions with chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as well as the American Diabetes Association. Earlier, she spent 14 years overseeing development activities at a large chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, leading explosive growth initiatives and ground-breaking strategic projects. An active member of the community, Ms. Murdoch has held several town positions and volunteers for her college alma mater, Drew University.