The local branch of the Multiple Sclerosis (MP) Society of Canada held an Awareness Parade in Yellowknife on Sunday, an event closing off MS Awareness Month.
A group of about a dozen people gathered with their vehicles at Parker Park and were led by a police escort through the city and to Old Town, where the parade finished.
“We had a parade on May 1 to mark the beginning of MS Awareness Month. Parades seem to be in with Covid,” said organizer Laurie McLean, who is also the facilitator of the Yellowknife branch of the MS Society. Yellowknife is part of the society’s Alberta and Northwest Territories Division.
One of the highlights of the month is the Jayman Built MS Walk that had to be conducted virtually this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. McLean organized the first walk in 2013.
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“We had a virtual walk on May 24. We tried to raise as much awareness as we can in May. We do stuff throughout the year but May is when we try to bring it all out and to let people know that we’re around.”
“This would’ve been our eighth (annual) walk and I’ve found that over the years we’ve gotten more people coming out and saying, ‘You know what? I have MS. I’m going to walk.’”
This month’s vehicle parade was the only event where members gathered physically, even if it was inside their cars. It made for a more active and visual event than its usual social media and hashtag campaigns that it usually unrolls to end the month.
Looking back at this year’s MS Awareness Month, McLean is proud of its achievements, including a livestream on May 24 that was viewed by 7,000 people across Canada, Premier Caroline Cochrane showing her support by changing her Facebook profile photo for World MS Day on Saturday and fund raising efforts.
“Apparently $2 million in funds were raised throughout Canada, according to the Alberta and Northwest Territories Division. The division won’t put out the official (total) until the middle of July,” she said.
McLean is also proud of her own efforts, after she walked at least 5 kilometres each day in May and raised about $4,000 in donations.
“Sometimes I did 6. I have MS, so I have good and bad days. Thank God the weather was perfect,” she said.
But the pandemic-related restrictions made the month different for the society and more challenging.
“It’s been hard not being able to get together and talk about things that nobody else understands.
With MS and probably any disease, getting together is a big thing for us because we can talk to each other about what we’re going through,” she said.
“We do have virtual yoga that we do every Tuesday, it’s adapted yoga. We’ve able to communicate through there. So that’s kind of helped because we haven’t lost our communication.”