Up Front

Identifying and Meeting the Needs of the MS Community

Photo of Gina Ross Murdoch
Gina Ross Murdoch

By Gina Ross Murdoch
MSAA President and CEO

In the “Up Front” column of our previous issue of The Motivator, I shared the excitement we are all feeling with MSAA’s new and ongoing programs and events. I also talked about our current strategic plan for 2021-2023, and the many vital goals we have achieved.

We have been diligently working on the creation of our next strategic plan for 2024-2026. As part of our strategic planning process, we recently conducted a needs-assessment survey to both English and Spanish-speaking members of the MS community. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. The purpose of this survey was to gather information about the needs, interests, and concerns of individuals living with MS as well as those who provide support for them.

I am thrilled to report that so many members of the MS community responded to our survey, and I want to thank everyone who participated! The information provided is essential in helping MSAA craft updated plans aimed at improving, expanding, and tailoring services to the needs of those impacted by MS.

In order to move forward with any strategic plan, financial support is vitally important to fund our urgently needed programs and services. The good news is that MSAA’s most successful fundraiser, our annual Improving Lives Benefit, is fast approaching! This exciting fundraiser has evolved into two events, each designed to best fit the needs and preferences of the attendees.

Our first event is “Together Again,” an in-person reception on Wednesday, May 3rd at the beautiful Barnes Foundation, which features an extensive art collection in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is followed two weeks later by our virtual Improving Lives Benefit, taking place on Thursday, May 18th. This virtual option enables people from across the country to 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 recognizing two very special honorees.

Our Mission Honoree is the highly acclaimed actress and MS advocate, Selma Blair. Ms. Blair is also a New York Times Best-Selling Author, mom, and longtime supporter and friend of MSAA. Her advocacy has brought significant awareness of MS, prompting others to seek support. In 2021, a documentary of Ms. Blair’s diagnosis of MS and challenging journey with the disease was released. Receiving rave reviews, Introducing, Selma Blair, is a candid and revealing look into her life during some of her most difficult moments with MS.

This year’s Corporate Honoree is Polar Products. Under the leadership of President and CEO Jacob Graessle, Polar Products has become a leading manufacturer of cooling equipment used by the MS community. We are so proud of the partnership between MSAA and Polar Products for more than 20 years and we’re inspired by their continued commitment to the MS community.

To learn more about our Improving Lives Benefit honorees, please refer to our “Thoughts About Giving” column, starting on page 38. Details are also available on our website at engage.mymsaa.org/benefit2023.

In addition, we are excited to announce that in recognition of MSAA’s 53 years of dedicated service to the MS community, we will be holding our Anniversary Challenge fundraising events in various cities across the country. As always, with our MSAA Anniversary Challenge, virtual opportunities to participate are also available. For more information, please visit engage.mymsaa.org/anniversary2023.

With great pride, I’m happy to announce another successful MS Awareness Month in March. MSAA’s theme for this year’s MS Awareness Month was “Life with MS: Different Stages of the Journey.” Information, resources, and strategies to assist with the different stages of life with MS were highlighted throughout March. If you were not able to attend any of these educational programs, MSAA’s MS Awareness Month’s webinars and podcasts are archived on our website and may be accessed by going to mymsaa.org/awarenessmonth. For more information, please see page 35 of our “Program Notes” column.

In conjunction with MS Awareness Month, MSAA was pleased to launch our 2023-2024 Art Showcase on MSAA’s website. As always, the Art Showcase offers a vast collection of inspiring works of art by individuals living with MS. I am thrilled that we are able to continue to share this online gallery with the MS community.

And finally, in this edition of The Motivator, you will see that we have expanded upon the cover story from our previous edition. In this issue, we further explore the many aspects of aging with MS and the different approaches to best manage one’s MS through the years.