Boston, Meet First-Time Mucker, Ava
Do you remember your first MuckFest? The fun…the anticipation…those first leaps into the muddy water! There’s nothing quite like your first MuckFest experience. And for Ava O’Brien and her family…that first time will come this weekend in Boston!
Ava and a whole crew of her friends and family will be getting muddy this weekend as part of team Tough Mudder Muckers. That list includes her parents, aunt and uncle, “tons of my friends from high school, as well as friends of my aunt and uncle.” She’s also hoping her younger sisters will join now that kids can muck at 10-years-old! Even though Leah and most of her team are first-time Muckers, they are a Top 10 Fundraising Team, as well as one of the event’s largest teams.
This weekend will be tons of fun, of course, but it is also a deeply personal one for team Tough Mudder Muckers. This group of friends and family will muck alongside Ava, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis before her 15th birthday.
We talked to Ava and Leah (her mom) about this coming weekend and their family’s MS journey.
Can you tell us a little more about your MS journey as a family?
Leah: Ava was diagnosed one month shy of turning 15. She began showing some fatigue symptoms in April during lacrosse season, and we just attributed it to a busy schedule. During finals week, she passed out at school. Again, we just thought it was stress. She also began to feel numbness on her right calf, which slowly moved to the rest of her leg by the end of the week. We saw the pediatrician who got us into neurology at Boston Children’s, and then we scheduled an MRI. During the MRI, they noticed something wasn’t right, so they sent us to the ER for Ava to be admitted. During the admission process, the neurologist on call came in and told us, based on all the tests and the results of the MRI, she had multiple sclerosis. She remained in the hospital for two nights receiving IV steroids, and we had to choose a course of treatment to take at that time as well. Ava relapsed six weeks later with another two-night stay, but since then (knock on wood), it has been status quo.
When Ava was first diagnosed, she looked at the National MS Society fundraiser pages and thought MuckFest looked like a fun option for us.
How have you been fundraising?
Ava: I had a bake sale at school, and my mom made orange duck chocolates that people would buy in secret, and we would deliver them throughout my high school. We also posted a lot on social media, and that really brought in a lot of money.
What does it mean to be participating in MuckFest with a personal family connection to MS?
Leah: As a family, we are comprised of mainly women. My husband and I are raising the girls to be strong and independent. We don’t want them to ever feel like they cannot do something. As a teenager living with MS, there are many obstacles Ava is going to need to overcome, and we are hoping we are providing her with the emotional strength to do so. A few physical obstacles in the mud are just a symbol of what she can overcome in life — and will.
What are you most excited about?
Ava: It’s just going to be a really fun bonding experience for my team of family and friends to come together and run in the mud. Plus, the hanging balloons (Big Balls!) look like they might be my favorite obstacle! But who knows, they all might just be as much fun!
Going through the mud with everyone in my family will also be exciting. It will make for really good pictures!
We’ll check in with Ava and Leah after Boston this weekend to hear about their favorite parts of MuckFest!