On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, the much anticipated 39th Annual Ambassadors Ball was held at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Washington, DC. Benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), the Ambassadors Ball was attended by hundreds of ambassadors, distinguished Congressional and business leaders, VIPs, celebrities, and activists all committed to doing their small part to alleviate this debilitating disease.
As in past years, the evening began with a silent auction to support vital MS research worldwide, as well as programs and services for over 15,000 individuals affected by MS in the DC-metro area. While there was no puppy this year (my husband thanks you for that), there were iconic historical items and bespoke experiences, including dinners with Ambassadors and vacations.
The official program began with remarks by James Rosen, Fox News Channel, who offered tribute to both his wife Sara, who was diagnosed with MS, and Sylvia Lawry, the pioneer of MS activism. After seeing her brother show early symptoms of MS, Lawry placed a classified ad in the New York Times in 1945: “Multiple Sclerosis. Will anyone recovered from it please communicate with patient.” Her actions unleashed a tidal wave of interest in finding the cause, treatment, and cure for MS, gathering researchers around the world and founding the future National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Today, the NMSS proudly carries her legacy forward as they move toward a world free of MS.
Joined by their spouses Congressman Dale Kildee and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers on stage, 2016 Co-Chairs Mrs. Jennifer Kildee and Mr. Brian Rodgers lauded the diplomatic corps for their efforts in ending MS and honored Senators Thad Cochran and Christopher Coons. Chartese Berry, NMSS Greater DC-Maryland Chapter President, also honored those living with MS.
As well understood by those diagnosed with MS and their support network, the cause of MS is unknown. According to the NMSS, “scientists believe that disease is triggered by an as-yet-unidentified environmental factor in a person who is genetically predisposed to respond.” Most individuals are diagnosed between 20 and 50; two to three times more women than men have MS. But there is hope. Russell Parker, Board of Directors, offered one of the most inspirational comments of the night: “we are incurably optimistic…we will stop MS in its tracks, restore what was lost, and end this disease.”
Parker has reasons to be so positive. Dr. Mark Freedman, University of Ottawa and Ottawa Hospital, conducted a clinical trial in 24 patients seven years (or more) ago that involved an aggressive and risky treatment plan using chemotherapy to wipe out the immune system of MS patients, then restarting the immune system by transfusing bone marrow cells. Similar trials have been conducted in the US and UK. One patient reports being able to walk and go downhill skiing, thanks to this cutting-edge research.
When the dancing and dessert was over, guests left the NMSS Ambassadors Ball feeling proud of these great strides that have been made over the past seven decades. We are compelled to end MS for once and for all.
Photography by Lisa Fitzpatrick