April 29, 2003
By Lauren Kurz
For the Pocono Record
Tom Hinkey is merely mortal.
He can't possibly be in two different locations at the same time, not physically, at least.
But spiritually and mechanically, he can be, or, at least his voice can and will be this weekend.
Gearing up for the 2003 Multiple Sclerosis walk that will be held at Tobyhanna State Park on Sunday and at East Stroudsburg United Methodist Church's spring cantata, the 60-year-old resident of McMichaels has been battling MS for the past 16 years. Hinkey hasn't let it stop him and he hasn't let the fact that he has to be in two places at once on Saturday faze him.
His voice will blend sweetly with other voices at the cantata, but it will be coming from a pre-recorded tape.
"Since I already made a commitment to the walk, the music director recorded my voice, so I'll be there in spirit," Hinkey said. "You'll hear the voice coming from somewhere."
Tom Hinkey is a man who sees many miraculous things in life, including being able to participate in these two events at once. When he was diagnosed 16 years ago, Hinkey was in poor condition, with an almost immobile arm and the loss of many of his faculties.
He entered a study that used chemotherapy, an unusual MS treatment, as therapy. For 48 of the 50 participants in the study, chemotherapy didn't seem to have much effect. But such was not the case for him and one other person. "I firmly believed that's what stabilized me," Hinkey said.
Hinkey came out of the treatment in a condition similar to the one he is in today. While he walks with a cane for balance, Hinkey has no other outward signs of the disease and cites his main symptom as fatigue.
"It's a very cruel disease," Hinkey said of the illness, which attacks the body's nervous system.
Despite the fatigue that often plagues him, Hinkey will not only be in spirit at the church and physically at the walk, but he will also be strumming away.
Part of Hinkey's job was to find entertainment for the walk. He just happens to be part of the entertainment.
With a backpack ukulele strapped onto his back, Hinkey will walk portions of the walk and then stop and join the ukulele club that he is a member of to play.
Hinkey has put a lot of time into the walk because he wants to help his own cause and the cause of others who deal with the same disease that he does on a daily basis.
"I'm a firm believer that people with MS want to help their own cause," Hinkey said. "We like to raise our own money, fight our own fight."
Hinkey has a history of helping the MS cause. Prior to moving to McMichaels with his wife, Kathy, about two-and-a-half years ago, Hinkey lived in New Jersey, where he was instrumental in support groups. "We all speak the same language. We all have the same problems," he said.
When Hinkey realized the closest support groups were in the Stroudsburg area and the Lehigh Valley, he decided to get the ball rolling in the West End.
"There's a lot of people in the West End who have MS," Hinkey said. The support group counts nearly 30 people as members and is just one of Hinkey's many interests.
The MS Walk, which is held by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday, with registration at 9 a.m. The 5.1-mile walk follows a trail around Tobyhanna Lake at Tobyhanna State Park.
For those with MS that may find the five miles a bit much, there also will be a "Mission Mile," which is a mile-long course that ends at the same place as the primary walk.
"They all finish together," Hinkey said. "You have to fight it, you have to be pushing yourself."
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society will hold a benefit walk at 10 a.m. Sunday at Tobyhanna State Park. Meet at parking lot 1 on Route 423 North, which is off Route 380, exit 8, the Tobyhanna exit. The event features full medical-transportation support with rest stops every few miles, family entertainment, and a finish-line party to celebrate the achievements of participants.
To register, call (800) 883-Walk, or visit online at http://www.walk4ms.org.
Copyright © April 29, 2003, Pocono Record