The 2020 Jayman Built MS Walk Presented by The Co-operators Saik Insurance Limited in St. Paul is going ahead on May 24.

And while it won’t have the festive atmosphere of a large gathering, Brenda Rosychuk of the MS Society’s Lakeland office is excited about the possibilities.

“We are going virtual this year,” she said. “Every year tens of thousands of people across Canada take action and connect at the MS Walk. And I think this year it’s going to be no different for us.”

Under normal circumstances, hundreds of people from across the Lakeland gather in St. Paul to walk and celebrate as a community while raising money to help people who have multiple sclerosis. It’s the society’s biggest single fundraiser.

Last year’s walk raised $150,000, Rosychuk said.

Individuals and teams can still participate physically by walking in their neighbourhoods, or on a treadmill, or even having a family dance party in their living room. 

People can still register online, as in past years. “We still want people to register just to get a grasp of how many people were involved,” Rosychuk said. 

There will be a live-streamed event on May 24 starting with an opening ceremony at 10:00 am. 

Rosychuk says there’s no reason this year’s walk can’t be as big as, or bigger than, the traditional MS Walks. 

“We’re asking anyone to connect, anyone to join. It’s going open up opportunities for those individuals who have never been able to join our MS Walk in St. Paul for personal reasons or geographically. I think it’s really going to open the doors up a little bit more for those who wanted to connect with us at the walk but couldn’t actually make it,” she said.

The effort to organize the 2020 MS Walk began in September. Rosychuk says the community has stepped up as always, and generous sponsorship is in place.

In addition to the walk, the MS Society of Canada is encouraging people to connect on social media using the hashtag #WeChallengeMS and share their own

While the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the annual walk, it has made the MS Society’s mission all the more important. While the pandemic has affected everyone, Rosycuk says that for Canadians living with and affected by MS, it presents additional concerns on top of an already challenging disease.

She says that after nine years working with the local MS Society, the walk is an annual highlight on her calendar. “It’s such a weird feeling knowing that I’m not going to be able to set up for our walk that weekend, because that to me is one of those special times of the year,” she said. “It brings people together, and it brings people living with MS together. It brings a community together.”

But she is upbeat about the possibilities.

“I’m hoping that we’re going to have as many people engaged as we did in the past, and maybe even more,” she said. 

“I guess time will tell.”

There were approximately 375 participants at last year’s walk. Although people can’t gather this year, participation might be even higher.  JEFF GAYE