Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

September 04, 2007 13:00 ET

MS Read-A-Thon Celebrates 30 Years

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 4, 2007) - Over 5 million student participants, 20 million books and $40 million raised for multiple sclerosis research and services. These are some of the major milestones marking the 30th birthday of one of Canada's longest running in-school fundraisers, the MS Read-A-Thon.

Begun in 1977 as a pilot project at Jack Miner Senior Public School in Scarborough, Ontario, the MS Read-A-Thon has connected millions of students to the joys of recreational reading while in turn, educating them about a disease of great prevalence in Canada.

"It's this approach to the fun of reading that has allowed us to extend our reach well beyond the MS family itself," says Yves Savoie, president and chief executive of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. "Through the MS Read-A-Thon, a whole new generation of young people have learned more about MS and about the reality of living with a disability."

The premise is simple: Students at over 900 participating schools across Canada are encouraged to read as many books or newspaper and magazine articles as they can within a certain period. As they read, they collect pledges based on the number of books or articles they've read, or on how long they've read.

Last year, almost 40,000 students read more than a million books through this program. They raised $1.7-million in support of the Society's work to fund MS research and provide education and aid to those with the disease and their families.

And along with those who take part, the MS Society's entrance into the schools allows for presentations on the disease to about 190,000 Canadian students each year.

The former MS Read-A-Thon participant who has set the pace for thousands of others is Michelle Amerie. At the age of 13, she was the top MS Read-A-Thon fundraiser for her grade at Jack Miner during the campaign's inaugural run. Three years later, she had her first attack of MS symptoms.

"I woke up one morning and I had double vision, which was from optic neuritis," recounts Amerie, 41.

It would take years more before she was actually diagnosed with the disease, however, and even then the challenges deepened in stages.

"At first, you couldn't tell I had MS," she remarks. "Then, I started walking with a cane and then a walker, and now I use a wheelchair."

At some point in her journey with multiple sclerosis, Amerie determined she was going to make the most of her life no matter what happened. She's a powerful spokesperson for the Society who has lived her talk, seizing opportunities to take up scuba diving, sky diving, horseback riding and any number of other challenges. Where public events for MS take place, she's usually up front.

Amerie has not only been a leading presence at the MS Read-A-Thon each year but at virtually all the major fundraising events the Society holds, including the MS Carnation Campaign and the Toronto Super Cities Walk for MS where she serves as honourary chair.

The MS Read-A-Thon will always have a special place for her, however.

"It's such a great program," says Amerie. "All you have to do is read books and you're helping people and doing something good for yourself."

"The MS Read-A-Thon is more than just a fundraiser," concludes Savoie. "We hope that by promoting reading and awareness of MS, we are planting the seeds of life-long learning."

Contact Information

  • Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
    Stewart Wong
    National Manager, Media Relations
    (416) 967-3025