Still walking for a cure

Justin Crann
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Reader one of many perennial participants in MS Walk

Elsye Reader wishes she didn't have to raise money to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.

Elsye Reader walks along the bank of the Wakamow River in Wakamow Valley Park during the Moose Jaw MS Walk on Sunday. Reader is a perennial walker who typically raises more than $10,000 annually for the cause.

"My husband's niece has MS and there are so many people I know who have it," Reader told the Times-Herald Sunday. "I hate stopping to raise money, because I know so many of them. The sooner we find a cure, the better their lives are going to be."

Even though she hates it, Reader has been walking to raise funds for MS Canada for more than 20 years. She estimates she has been at it for 23.

On Sunday, it was revealed she raised $11,063.75 for the cause this year — a substantial sum that made her the largest contributor in Moose Jaw. 

Reader has been the top fundraiser in the province several times since she started walking.

The secret to her success lies in the amount of effort she's put into building relationships in the community.

"I go door to door and I have a lot of businesses that sponsor me. I bet, in total, that there are probably 60 businesses that help me," she said. "I have been doing this for so many years now that they all know me, and they don't forget me. When the new year comes up, if I don't stop in and visit them, they call me."

That degree of support extends beyond Reader.

According to Jessica Comaniuk, a spokeswoman for the MS Society, the community rallies behind the cause every year.

Businesses do, as well, she said.

"We have quite a few businesses that generously offer to help and donate," said Comaniuk. "It's very nice to see the community come out with open arms."

Comaniuk said Moose Jaw typically ranks third in the province in funds raised. 

Last year, she said, the Friendly City raised about $31,000. The MS Society is hoping to raise about $35,000 in the community in 2014.

The final tally wasn't available as of press time, but Comaniuk said she was optimistic it would achieve that goal — in spite of the cold weather.

"The turnout shows the event is well-received. … Let's just be thankful we don't have gale force winds and rain pouring down on us," she said.

The chill didn't deter the Moose Jaw Fire Department from sending six of its members to participate in the walk, and two of them even brought their sons.

"We just try to take part in anything that goes on in the community, charity-wise," said firefighter Gord Hewitt.

It did require a change in attire.

"We had our T-shirts ready to go, but we ended up having to go back to the Hall and grab jackets," he said. "But it's all good, and now we're good to go."

Reader wasn't deterred from walking, either, and said she isn't planning to stop walking, even though she may be one of the older walkers.

"I don't intend to quit unless my health abandons me, because I love doing this," she said. "And I seem to be very well known in Moose Jaw for it."

You can follow Justin Crann on Twitter.

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