“Dirty Work” by MuckFest MS Philadelphia’s Shaylea McCray

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Neale Donald Walsch

If someone had told me that at the age of 24 I would be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or that together with family and friends and the unwavering perseverance of my mother we would raise over $11,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I would have laughed in their face. Impossible.

Crazily enough, these things actually did happen.

Following my diagnosis in January of 2013, there was a brief period in which I felt very depressed, very angry – at what I cannot say, but I was bitter. I did not want my mom to tell anyone, I did not want to tell anyone. I was cranky.

My mother has never been one to sit on the sidelines for anything in her life – a quality I have come to fiercely admire in my adulthood and am still trying to emulate. About a month after my parents and I had visited my neurologist, my mother called me after work one day. I was sitting in my car after finishing with my last patient, and she was babbling on and on about some run through the mud and how we could raise money and get t-shirts made – pretty much just shouting from the rooftops to the entire world, “Shay has MS! And this is what we’re doing about it!”

I screamed at her, told her absolutely not, to keep quiet about it and leave it alone.

One month later, we had created our team “Shay’s Philly Hipsters”. Two months later, we had almost 20 team members, and almost six months later, we had collectively raised over $11,000 for the National MS Society through MuckFest® MS.

 Shay McCray at MuckFest MS Philadelphia. Continue reading

Well, Denver, that certainly takes the cake!

We started out the week with snow blanketing Larkspur, but by the time Saturday rolled around, the snow was gone and the course was primed for premium muck-osity. It was muddy from the get-go with the sloppiest Muckin’ Corral, Start Line and Triple Pits in MuckFest® MS history. But that’s just the beginning. We had one of the most enthusiastic volunteer groups ever, and they kept the event humming in more ways than one! We also had some firsts, including the first time that four human bananas ran the course. We also had a team carry a cake throughout the entire course without dropping it (why not?); we’re just glad their balance didn’t dessert them (sorry about that). Big thanks to our largest team of the 2015 season so far: Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom (M4MM), led by team captains Michael Pierce (Top Fundraiser) and Ledia Karst, which had a total team membership of 196 and was the top fundraising team for MuckFest MS Denver. Sincere thanks to our course hosts in Larkspur and our local presenting sponsor, MAD Greens, for providing some tremendously tasty and healthy treats, and for posting this muck-tacular video. And thanks again, Denver, for making it mucking unforgettable and picture-perfect!

A sneak peek at event photos available here! All event photography will be available later this week via our Facebook page.

Denver is mucking awesome.

Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom (M4MM), Part 2

UPDATE: Team photo of Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom (M4MM) from MuckFest MS Denver!

Team_Photo_MuckFestMS_Denver

We’re excited to share part two of our feature on Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom (M4MM). Now, we’ll hear from team leadership across the country on fundraising tips, team building ideas, and why supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is important to them.

Ramón Rhymes, Denver Mucker

Tell us about your Duck Attack fundraising effort.

I was struggling with asking for direct donations on my behalf to the fundraising account set up for the MuckFest® MS. I have an indirect connection with someone that suffers from the illness, but I felt that my connection was too attenuated to credibly ask others to donate on my behalf. Getting others to donate on behalf of someone that we all know and like was something I felt I could genuinely cajole people into doing. And thus began the idea of the Duck Attack, which Michael introduced yesterday in his post. Our “target,” Yvonne Rankin, was well-known and well-liked at our organization, and getting people to donate to her account was a way for all of us to genuinely show our support of her efforts. The Duck Attack was a terrific opportunity to be creative, promote a fun office gag, and support an incredible cause. Folks from all levels of the organization jumped in to support the effort and everyone commented that they really enjoyed the campaign. If you check out this video, you can see that it also turned out to be a great father-daughter event too.

Duck Attack 2, MuckFest MSDenver Mucker, Yvonne Rankin.

Why is supporting the National MS Society through MuckFest MS important to you?

All of us have different reasons for putting energy into important causes. What makes the MuckFest MS event important for me is the camaraderie it engenders. Seeing what my colleagues have done to make this event happen demonstrated for me that a small group of focused individuals can really make a world of change.

Dan Sequeira, Team Captain of MuckFest MS New Jersey’s Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom (M4MM)

What is your top team building tip?

Get at least one passionate lieutenant to help you out! Thanks to Bernadette Flesch for her special support of our team.

Why is supporting the National MS Society through MuckFest MS important to you?

The prospect of a fun-filled day slopping through mud while contributing to the eradication of this dreaded disease is impossible to resist.

I don’t know if it’s serendipity (a somewhat strange word to use given the cause), but ever since Michael Pierce asked if I would consider getting involved with MuckFest MS, I have become aware of several folks in my community/circle of friends who either have MS or are connected to someone who suffers from it. It’s gratifying to know that my efforts may well make a difference in the life of someone with whom I have a personal connection.

Michelle Sugerman, Denver Volunteer

What is the most creative way you’ve asked people to fundraise?

I sent out 30 emails asking for “at least a Hamilton.” Some thought I was asking for their fancy watch and some thought I misaddressed my email, but I got a lot of traction on my message asking for a small donation of $10. Here is the fundraising message that I used:

“There I was, on the day of the race last year, feeling the warm sun on my skin. I was simultaneously reveling in the fact that I had geared up my workouts for this 5K and dreading the fact that I was gonna get wet and muddy (and cold)! Then, I met Michael’s Mom, Dee…AND IT GOT REAL! Suddenly, I wasn’t there to impress my new friends with my abilities to complete the MuckFest MS obstacles; I was there to help find a cure for Michael’s Mom. Dee is a 1st generation college graduate, taught in Germany on an Army base, and sponsored lively debates at her family’s dinner table, and now, is saddled with the debilitating disease of MS. We were all so moved by her story, we named our team Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom (M4MM). On May 16, 2015, I will be volunteering it at MuckFest MS Denver. It’s going to be a blast! But, supporting the muckers is just part of my contribution! Would you help me raise some Bucks for the Muck? You can help Michael’s once feisty and independent Mom find a cure AND help me win a really cool T-shirt!”

Denver Blog

Why is supporting the National MS Society through MuckFest MS important to you?

I was personally invited by Michael Pierce to join the MuckFest MS event held September 2014 near Denver. I was surprised by the play on words, like “MuckFest MS is Muckin’ Awesome”, and I grew to love the playful spirit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society conveyed through MuckFest MS. The day of the 5K course full of mud and 20+ outrageous obstacles, I realized raising money for MS services and research really is a “dirty business.” MS is a serious illness that affects not only individuals, but also their families. We all knew that our team was “Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom” (M4MM), but when I met Michael’s mom, Dee, I was deeply moved. Her tenacity to fight through the loss of her feisty independence was evidenced in her calm, yet fatigued demeanor. Following the MuckFest MS event, I too was fatigued, but I was also energized knowing I had done my part to raise money, spread awareness, and become part of the community that continues to “Muck for Michael’s Mom!”

Jon Downie, Denver Mucker

As a Workplace Champion, what is your top team building tip?

Emphasize the win-win scenario – helping those with MS, while having fun in the process. My company, Welltok, is a small organization, so I had to get creative. I posted flyers in view from every spot in the Denver office. I also have spoken with many people since we announced the team. If I happened to catch someone looking at a flyer, I’d talk with him or her about the event and the win-win scenario – having fun while raising money for a good cause. We also had a lunch and learn at my office, and Welltok was very generous in funding the lunch. The National MS Society was collaborative and helpful in making the session informative. Leading up to the lunch and learn, as well as afterwards, HR was kind enough to send a company-wide email announcing the event.

In my and HR’s communications, there was mention of Yvonne, Ramon and I participating last year, which provided opportunity for each of us to speak from experience about how fun and rewarding it was. The Welltok office has low profile cubicle desks with very few hard wall offices. The M4MM Mucker, Helper (volunteer) and Backer (donations) name tents were a great way to advertise to others if you were participating. It also provided a good word of mouth mechanism. Once a few people signed up, they were talking about it to others, which triggered more people to sign up.

MuckFest_MS_Denver_Blog_2

Why is supporting the National MS Society through MuckFest MS important to you?

Sometimes in life, certain opportunities are presented that pique your interest. Last year, when asked to participate in the MuckFest MS event in Denver, it sounded like a win-win scenario. The funds raised help those with MS, and the MuckFest MS would be a fun 5K. The win-win scenario continues this year with MuckFest MS 2015.

Marcelle Wall, Denver Mucker

What is your top fundraising tip?

Ask for corporate sponsorships! Every company has a philanthropy budget, and they like giving to great causes! And like I always say, “You don’t get if you don’t ask.”

Why is supporting the National MS Society through MuckFest MS important to you?

I have a dear friend, Leslie Clark, who was diagnosed with MS several years ago. She has demonstrated the most amazing courage and grace through what has been a very difficult and frustrating process of first even getting to the diagnosis, and then championing her own health by doing research on all kinds of treatments, including alternative ones. She is my motivation, along with Michael’s mom of course!

Sandi Busby, Denver Mucker

How do you spread the word about MuckFest MS?

We talk about MuckFest MS everywhere we go and dare our friends and business associates to get involved. It’s amazing what a little chatter can do to pique people’s interests.

Why is supporting the National MS Society through MuckFest MS important to you?

Living in Colorado, we have a disproportionate number of MS diagnoses. We need to support our fellow Coloradoans, and this is a fun way to do it!

Michael Heintz, MuckFest MS Houston Team Captain

Why is supporting the National MS Society through MuckFest MS important to you?  

I have been an avid supporter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for years, mostly through the Bike MS program. I started cycling again following knee surgery and thought I should put all my rehab effort into a good cause. My company (BP) is the primary sponsor of the BP MS150 from Houston-to-Austin each year, so I started there. At the time, I didn’t know much about MS but quickly learned through the educational materials provided by the local chapter office. During fundraising for my first ride, I learned of many friends and family that were directly impacted by MS. The more research I did, the more I knew I had to help to put an end to this disease. Through my university, I was connected with another alum who lived nearby who was battling MS. He shared with me all the support he was receiving from the National MS Society as well as provided more details of their work. This motivated me even more to participate in other Bike MS events in San Antonio, Houston and Louisiana. Sadly, he lost his battle with MS in 2013 but remains a motivation for me.  When I learned of MuckFest MS from one of my longtime friends and supporters, I knew I had to form our Houston team.

What is the most effective way to ask people to join your team in Houston where it’s the first year for MuckFest MS?

I express to potential team members that it will be a “Muckin’ Awesome” time for a great cause.  I then share details about the work the National MS Society does and the importance of the funds raised. We are a small team so far, as focus has been on the BP MS150 cycling event. However, I am expecting a fairly large team before our November event. 

Thanks for your support, M4MM!

Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom (M4MM), Part 1

We’re excited to start a two-part series on Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom (M4MM), a MuckFest® MS team participating in Denver, New Jersey, St. Louis, and Houston. You might remember Michael Pierce from a 2014 blog post as the first time mucker who shared that “Amazing things happen when you just ask.” Michael has taken that motto to heart, and less than a year later, his team is approaching nearly 200 people in Denver alone, where they hope to raise $30,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. First, we’ll hear from Michael.

Michael from MuckFest MS Denver

Michael Pierce, Team Captain of MuckFest MS Denver’s Muckin’ for Michael’s Mom (M4MM)

How did you get involved with MuckFest MS?

I was just starting to try and get in shape (something I’m still struggling with), and I set a goal to participate in an “official” 5K, ideally some sort of “fun” run. One day, I stumbled on a MuckFest MS ad on Facebook, and it looked like a blast! On the personal side, this was also a perfect fit because my mom has MS, which made this a great combination of fun while doing something for a cause that is important to me.

Why is fundraising for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society important to you?

For me, it started as a meaningful way to honor my Mom, Dee. She is a feisty and independent woman, born and raised in Jersey City. She is a first generation college graduate, putting herself through night school by working days as a waitress. Having never ventured beyond “the city,” she took her new degree to teach at a US Army Base in Germany. Today, she fearlessly fights MS. My mom taught me the value of thinking and acting independently throughout my life. Watching her journey with MS has been difficult because it is slowly taking both of those away from her.

As I’ve gotten more involved with the National MS Society, however, I realize that my mom is actually one of the lucky ones and has a mild form of MS that didn’t manifest until later in life. Through my involvement in MuckFest MS, I’ve become aware of other people with more aggressive forms of the disease or that are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s and live with this disease in the prime of their lives. The more I learn about this disease, the more I am determined to put an end to it.

Tell us about your team in Denver and its tremendous growth, both in number of people and in funds raised.

Our team has gone through a crazy explosion this year, beyond anything that I ever imagined. Last year, I was blown away by 38 friends joining me in the mud and raising $7,100, which was enough to put us in the top 10 for the Denver event. I was thrilled, especially since it was our first year. I tend to be a competitive guy, though, and when I sat down to think about goals for our second year, I decided that I wanted to see if we could be #1 in both categories. That meant getting to 100 people and raising more than $20,000. Gulp. That was a huge jump! Before I could talk myself out of it, I wrote it down. And I did some quick math. If each person on the team last year would find just 3 friends to join the team, that would get us past 100 people. And if each person raised just $300, we’d blow right past that $30,000! Maybe this was doable…

 MuckFest MS Team

With 1 week (at the time of writing) to go until MuckFest MS, we have 197 people and have raised over $31,000. I am just stunned. People have asked for my secret and I really struggle to give an answer, because I can’t put my finger on one specific thing. The common theme, though, has been reaching out to, and surrounding myself with, good people. From incredibly successful Bike MS team captains (Chris Lennert & Jennifer Sales) that have graciously given their time and given me coaching along the way, to a group of close friends that embraced our goals and have driven this team forward, and the incredible people in our local chapter (Chelsea Hixson, Aaron Green, Kristin Gibbs, Raymond Saperstein, Carrie Nolan and many others), who have full time jobs but always seem to find a way to lend a hand when I need help…it seems that I am humbled on a daily basis at everyone’s willingness to meaningfully support our team.

Building on your momentum in Denver, you decided to start teams across the country. Tell us more about that.

This really happened by chance. A very good friend of mine, Michael Heintz, lives in Houston and I have supported him in Bike MS for years. When this year’s list of MuckFest MS cities came out and I saw that Houston had been added, I immediately reached out to Michael. I shared with him how much fun our team had last year and asked if he’d be interested in starting a team in Houston, using our team name. He didn’t even blink and said yes right away. Michael turned right around and asked his good friend, Joe Witkiewicz, to start a team in St. Louis. That inspired me to ask another friend of mine in New Jersey, Dan Sequeira, to start a team out there. As I learned last year, amazing things happen if you just ask. Of course, what I haven’t told them yet is that I’m going to ask them to be as big as the Denver team next year! :)

What is a Duck Attack?

The basic gist of one of our most unique fundraising tactics was getting people to “sponsor” a rubber duck for our “target,” and then we would surprise the target with a ton of ducks on their desk, along with a large donation to that person’s personal fundraising account. The first attack was done by passing a folder around the office (much like you do a birthday card where you try to keep it a secret from the person), and we raised about $400. The objectives were to get people talking about the event, capture some pocket change for a donation, and prompt some people to get their own fundraising started.

 Duck Attack, MuckFest MS

Ramón (who you’ll hear from in the next post) took the second Duck Attack even further, with a goal of hitting $1,000, which he exceeded. He took it to a whole new level by incorporating a kiddie pool and floating ducks in the water. Here’s the crazy, creative teaser video that Ramón sent out in advance of his first email, to get people interested.

 Duck Attack 2, MuckFest MS

Check back on Monday to hear from Michael’s teammates from across the country! Good luck tomorrow in Denver!

Review of MuckFest MS Boston on Relentless Forward Commotion

Full post by Heather Gannoe appears on the Relentless Forward Commotion blog here.

2015 MuckFest MS Boston

“When I received the invitation to come out and run the 2015 Boston MuckFest MS race, I absolutely knew I had to go. Sure, the weather is still painfully cold here in New England (especially when covered in cold mud and water), but a race with a tagline of “Built for Laughs” could not be missed. MuckFest MS is a Nation wide, entry level obstacle course race/mud run, designed to help raise awareness and funds for the National MS Society, who hopes to put an end to Multiple Sclerosis.”

Read more: http://relentlessforwardcommotion.com/2015/04/2015-muckfest-ms-boston/

Crossing the Finish Line Together at MuckFest MS Boston

Guest blog post by Andrew Perna, 2015 MuckFest® MS Boston Mucker.

There was a fair amount of hesitation when I first suggested to my wife that we take part in MuckFest MS. We needed to ensure we had a babysitter for a good chunk of the day; something she will admit was initially used to put off registering for the event.

 MuckFest MS Family Photo, Perna blog.

I participated in my first MuckFest MS last April with a friend I usually enter races alongside. My wife, Christine, and I, along with our families, have supported the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for more than 10 years, and I received an email about the MuckFest MS because of my history of fundraising for the annual MS Walk in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The cause is near and dear, so I signed up. It was cold and rainy, but the course was fun and made me feel as though I was making a difference. I told myself that even if I had to run it alone, I’d sign up for MuckFest MS every spring.

When I inquired earlier this year and found out that my friend wouldn’t be able to run alongside me, I hatched the idea of getting Christine to sign up.

She admittedly had a few excuses for not jumping into the mud headfirst. She hasn’t had a lot of time to exercise as a working mom with one-year-old twin boys. More importantly, Christine is the reason MS fundraising and awareness are so meaningful to our family. She was diagnosed with MS in August 2004.

 Before photo of Andrew and Christine Perna, MuckFest MS Boston muckers.

Not much of a runner — she has one 5K on her resume, the Boston Volvo Thanksgiving Road Race a few years ago — her biggest concern was having the legs to make the distance. Privately, I was more concerned about the obstacles. She’s in remarkably good health for someone that was diagnosed with MS more than a decade ago, but without much training, I worried that she wouldn’t have the physical reserves to call on that most people our age (we both turn 30 this summer) possess.

There was never any doubt in my mind that she could do it, it was more a matter of how she’d respond after the race.

All my worries quickly vanished when, as we approached the final stretch, she turned to me and asked if I could smell the hamburgers and hot dogs cooking on the grill just past the finish line. The impending reward was all she needed to finish strong.

After crawling through the last bit of mud, we crossed the finish line holding hands. We have been a couple since meeting on the first day of our freshman year of college and have experienced a lot. Even with mud caked in places mud should never find itself, taking on that course as a duo and winning will always be a highlight.

 Flying Muckers zip line at MuckFest MS Boston. The Swing Set at MuckFest MS Boston

While Christine and I went into the event looking to bond as a couple, we ended up connecting with many people that share a journey similar to ours. Continue reading