Feb 16, 2002 : 6:50 pm ET
By ANGELA D. FOREST : The Herald-Sun
DURHAM -- Some days are better than others for Barry Smith, but the 59-year-old multiple sclerosis patient is grateful for the times he can spend in his garden.
The symptoms of MS developed in Smith as a teen-ager, he believes. While he was serving in the Navy, the middle toes in both his feet went numb. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1979.
One day last year, he tried to pick up his newspaper and ended up sprawled on his driveway, alone. The incident convinced him he needed a scooter.
"I got a whole lot of pills, but nothing in regards to any cure," said Smith, who has led an MS support group in Durham since the mid-1980s. "I donít walk without an aid anymore; thatís been in the last 10 to 15 years."
Seeing MS eradicated during his lifetime isnít an impossible dream in Smithís mind, with research now being conducted, he said.
Smithís feet may sometimes fail him, but 250 people who participated in a N.C. Central University group fund-raiser used theirs last month to walk around campus so people like him will find relief or possibly even a cure.
Held for the fourth year by Phi Beta Lambda, an academic society of NCCU business students, the three-mile Walk to Cure generated about $9,000 for the Alliance of AIDS Services of North Carolina, the Alzheimerís Association-Eastern North Carolina Chapter, the UNC Breast Center, the Lupus Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the N.C. Sickle Cell Foundation, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Rex Cancer Center, focusing on prostate cancer.
The event generated $2,000 more this year than last, according to Sonya Scott, staff advisor in the School of Business. The fund-raising goal for 2002 was $10,000.
"We still have money coming in," she said.
Students sought individuals to sponsor them during the walk. As sponsors, people could select which organization they wanted to give to. This year, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation received the most single donations, Scott said.
According to the foundation, studies on the effectiveness of transplanting insulin-producing islet cells in people with Type 1 diabetes have been promising. In 1999, Canadian researchers implanted these cells in seven adults with the disease. The level of sugar in their blood normalized and they have not used external insulin since that time. Scientists are now encouraging the government to fund activities dealing with stem cell harvesting. The cells can later be transformed into islet cells.
Phi Beta Lambda members developed the annual walk as a community service project, Scott said, selecting organizations addressing diseases affecting themselves, family members or people in the community.
"If we can, we try to add a new foundation each year," said Candra Matthews, a business major and vice president of Phi Beta Lambda. "This year, weíve added the Multiple Sclerosis Society."
To promote the January walk, students assisted those registering for prostate cancer screenings at Rex Healthcare Center in Raleigh, as well as participated in AIDS and juvenile diabetes walks, Matthews said.
Last summer, the Walk to Cure earned Phi Beta Lambda first place in state and national competitions tied to the business organization, Scott said.
Smith said he appreciates the efforts of groups like Phi Beta Lambda, adding that "every dollar makes a difference" in raising money for research and patient support.
"I know for a fact that some of these
monies are used to help MS patients," he said.
© 2002 The Durham Herald Company