Up Front: Meeting the Challenges

Photo of Gina Ross Murdoch
Gina Ross Murdoch

By Gina Ross Murdoch
MSAA President and CEO

Historically, MSAA’s “Up Front” column has played a vital role for communicating updates on MSAA’s programs and services, its newest initiatives, and exciting successes. But particularly within the past two years, we have reflected upon the challenging events that have impacted everyone.

As the pandemic reached far and wide, we saw increases in anxiety and fear, loneliness and depression, as well as job loss and supply shortages. To promote better emotional and mental wellbeing, as well as provide individuals with vital information, MSAA created a wide variety of educational resources and extended our Helpline hours. Our Helpline specialists answered several thousands of calls, providing support to address a wide variety of needs. Despite whatever challenges are occurring around us, please know that MSAA is committed to continue and expand upon our programs that provide the assistance so urgently needed by members of the MS community.

With regard to MSAA’s work, most of you may know that March was MS Awareness Month. Each year, throughout the month of March, MSAA works to provide the MS community with several learning opportunities. With the theme of “Shaping the MS Experience,” programs included online educational activities addressing the clinical approach to MS. Choosing an MS therapy, the science behind MS, and understanding progression, were among the vital topics presented. For more information, please refer to our “Program Notes” column.

I also want to let everyone know that we have two events as part of MSAA’s annual Improving Lives Benefit coming up in May. Now in its seventh year, MSAA’s in-person event will be held in Philadelphia on May 5th, while our virtual Improving Lives Benefit, now in its second year, will take place on May 12th. By adding this virtual option, people from across the country may take part in this exciting event from the comfort of their own homes.

We are thrilled to have inspirational speaker and MS community member Tyler Campbell hosting both events. Additionally, we will be honoring two very special individuals. Our Corporate Honoree is Alexandra von Plato, MSAA Board Member and CEO of Publicis Health. Our Mission Honoree is Hannah Garrison, a long-time visual artist and MSAA Art Showcase participant, as well as a volunteer and community leader who brings the arts to people facing life-altering health challenges. For more information, please refer to our “Thoughts About Giving” column.

Another especially important event is Team MSAA’s 3rd annual Anniversary Challenge. To commemorate the founding of MSAA on June 8, 1970 (6-8-1970), we invite individuals to join us in walking six miles, running eight miles, or biking 19.70 miles… or any combination of the three! Please visit MSAA’s Anniversary Challenge at engage.mymsaa.org/anniversary2022 for more information.

Before concluding this issue’s “Up Front” column, I want to say a few words about our cover story. For many of us, we get caught up in our daily activities and we forget – or at least don’t take the time for – certain extracurricular activities. In our cover story, we talk about how participating in the arts can benefit individuals both mentally and physically, leading to a more positive outlook and a better quality of life. Art therapists, music therapists, and other therapists, have worked with individuals with MS in achieving very positive results. Please read about this important topic.

Wishing you all a happy spring!

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.