Craft festival heightens awareness of MS
By Kathy Millen
The fifth annual MS Festival of Arts will offer more than handmade crafts for sale.
To the multiple sclerosis sufferers who help organize it each year, the sale's most important commodity is hope.
Most of the sale's organizers and crafters are afflicted with MS. With the proceeds benefiting the Greater Illinois Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the annual craft show gives those with the neurological disorder a fighting chance to beat it.
More than 90 crafters will sell their wares this weekend at Naper Settlement. The event also includes a raffle of craft items, a trip to Disney World, a TV and video games.
During the last five years, the show has raised more than $150,000 and awareness of MS, diagnosed in 200 people nationwide every day.
Five years ago, at the age of 28, Chris Chamerski found out she had MS. When the first MS craft show was held a few months later, she showed up and asked to be put to work. She has helped out ever since.
"I wanted to get involved," she said. "I'm helping myself. Once I found out everything I could about the disease, I thought 'I'm going to help fight this.' The basic goal wasn't to sit there and see how much money we could raise. We wanted to show the community that multiple sclerosis is not a death sentence. You can still be very functional and be a very vital part of the community."
Steve Pratapas of Naperville, president of the Greater Illinois Chapter, said great strides have been made in the treatment of the disease that affects more than 10,000 in Illinois. During the last six years, three promising new drugs have come on the market, with a fourth on the horizon.
"All this is the result of raising more funds and awareness," he said. "Through programs like (the craft show,) we are funding more and more research."
Chamerski said most people think the worst when diagnosed with MS. The craft show proves people with the disease still can live full, creative lives.
An active mother of three young children, Chamerski said she is fortunate to be ambulatory 98 percent of the time, thanks to the right medications and a positive outlook.
"I think, as with anything, with a good attitude and a good support
team, whether it's family or friends, you can always make the best of a
bad situation," she said. "You are only going to feel as good as you think.
I might have MS, but it won't have me. You have to fight. You can't sit
back and let it get to you."