March 18, 2001 12:53:40 AM
By Anna Marie Lux/Gazette Staff
Ed and Bonnie Drozdowicz know the value of walking.
Next month, the Janesville couple and more than 50 family members and friends will hike 15 miles in Milwaukee to raise money for multiple sclerosis.
Last year, Team Droz, as the members are collectively known, raised $20,356.65 for the National MS Society, Wisconsin Chapter. The team's extraordinary fund-raising effort made it the top one out of more than 450 teams walking throughout the state.
"I want people to know we really appreciate their donations," Bonnie said.
Ten years ago, Bonnie and Ed started taking part in the annual fund raiser after their son, Tom, of Mequon, was diagnosed with MS. Since then, a second son, Pete, of Janesville also learned he has the disease.
"When this walk came along, we knew we had to be a part of it," Bonnie recalls.
"As parents, we realize that, besides praying for our sons, this is the next best thing we can do for them."
Money from the MS walk supports education, advocacy, research and local programs that enhance the quality of life for people with MS and their families.
"I feel very grateful that I have the support of my family and friends," Tom says. "And that they are willing to do this year after year."
Every year, the team adds a few more members and tries to earn a few more dollars.
"The Drozdowicz family is extraordinary," says Colleen Kalt, president and CEO of the state MS chapter.
"They are an inspiration to us. Even though one person gets MS, it is a family disease because every family member is affected. When you have MS, your life can be shattered. But if you have good family support, the devastation can be less. With Ed and Bonnie at the head, the Drozdowicz family is a good role model to others."
Ed and Bonnie begin their yearly fund raising at Christmas, thanking people for their donations and asking them for continued support. They continue working hard right up until the April 22 walk.
"It seems that, once you start doing this, you meet a lot of people who know someone who has the disease," Bonnie says.
Last year, 400 people gave about $6,500 to Ed and Bonnie alone. They were among the top 100 fund raisers in the state out of 6,000 people who take part in the MS walk.
While they lovingly walk for their sons, they help many others, as well.
More than 10,000 people in Wisconsin live with MS, a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms can be mild, such as numbness in the limbs. Or they can be as severe as paralysis or vision loss.
"Our goal is to have 10,000 walkers, one for every person who has the disease," Kalt says. "In addition to raising money, the walk creates awareness. A lot of people are hiding their disease because they are afraid of how others will react toward them or they are afraid for their jobs."
Tom says the hardest thing about having MS is not knowing how the illness will affect him from day to day or in the long run.
"It's a very unpredictable disease. You don't know what its course will be," he says. "My disease is what you call secondary progressive. Instead of having a flare-up and going away, it's there all the time."
He would like to take his motorized scooter on the walk this year to be with his wife, Linda, and their three children. But he knows he's needed back at his house to help prepare for a celebration. After the walk each year, Team Droz gathers at Tom's house for food and companionship. Even the youngest family members, Ed and Bonnie's 27 grandchildren, attend.
"I know this devastating illness has brought our family closer together," Bonnie says. "Our children and grandchildren are learning to be more compassionate, as well."
If you have a Hats Off idea, contact the Sunday Gazette editor.
To donate on behalf of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Wisconsin Chapter, write a check to the National MS Society and mail it to Ed or Bonnie Drozdowicz, 2420 Elizabeth St., Janesville, Wis. 53545. They will mail you a receipt.
Ed, Bonnie, family members and friends will take part in an MS walk Sunday, April 22, in Milwaukee.
For more information
about MS, contact the National MS Society, Wisconsin Chapter, W223N608
Saratoga Drive, Waukesha, Wis. 53186-0401; or call 1-800-242-3358 toll
free or (262) 547-8999. The Web site is www.wisms.org.