Here To Help

Area residents will have the opportunity to support a local organization that aims to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis during National MS Week.

National MS Week begins today and runs through Sunday. The Chautauqua Region Multiple Sclerosis Society has planned a variety of events in recognition of the week, beginning with an MS Walk kick-off party from 4-7 p.m. today at the Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney Renaissance Center, 119 W. Third St., Jamestown.

The kick-off party will feature vendors with information ranging from financial planning, home and vehicle access, wellness, health care and more. Jeffery Barkstrom, of Barkstrom Natural Health and Acupuncture, will host a program on nutrition at 6 p.m. Representatives from the Buffalo office of the National MS Society will also be on hand to register walkers and volunteers for the 2014 Southern Chautauqua Walk MS, which is set for Sunday, May 4, at the Allen Park Ice Arena in Jamestown. For more information, search for “2014 Southern Chautauqua Walk MS” on Facebook.

The Secret Garden Flower Shop, 79 Allen St. in Jamestown, will participate in National MS Awareness Week by offering $10 orange bouquets with proceeds to benefit the Chautauqua Region MS Society. The bouquets will be on sale Monday through Saturday, and can be ordered by calling 720-1737. Area restaurants, such as Bob Evans, Friendly’s and Ruby Tuesday, will also participate by hosting fundraisers. Coupons for each fundraiser will be available at today’s kick-off party, as well as by emailing

Friendly’s, 10 S. Main St. in Jamestown, will donate 20 percent of the checks from those who present a coupon from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Bob Evans, 2798 N. Main St. in Jamestown, will host a fundraiser day on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. by donating 15 percent of the checks of those who present a coupon. Ruby Tuesday, 300 E. Fairmount Ave. in Lakewood, will donate 20 percent of checks from those who present a coupon on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Friday will also feature a Magic for MS event at the Jamestown Train Station, 211-217 W. Second St. in Jamestown, at 7 p.m. In addition to a magic show with audience participation by Magician Phillip Pratt, the event will include drawings and door prizes. Tickets are available pre-sale for $8 for adults and $4 for children under 12 by calling 720-1737. Tickets will also be available at the door for $10 for adults and $5 for children.

According to Mary Gabalski, president of the Chautauqua Region MS Society, the National MS Week will allow her to help raise awareness of multiple sclerosis, as well as the support and services available to area residents.

“We can create an awareness in the Jamestown area and in our little corner to say we’re local, and we’d love to talk to you,” Gabalski said. “We’d like to reach out to you to see what we can do to help you. We want to do anything that we can do to make life a little easier for people with MS today.”

Gabalski first became interested in MS in the 1970s when her mother, who had MS, got involved with a local social support group. Today, that group has evolved into a nonprofit that reaches out to regional and area residents struggling with MS.

“The Western New York area has the second largest population in the nation of diagnosed patients with MS,” Gabalski said. “For a long time, Buffalo was the number one city, but Seattle, Wash., has since taken that slot. So, we’re lucky that we have the Jacobs Neurological Institute at Buffalo General Hospital to do research and provide services to people. But, what people can’t get is somebody on a day-to-day basis to help them, talk to them and give them opportunities to get out and talk to others with MS so they don’t feel isolated. We also offer scholarships to those who have family members with MS.”

According to the National MS Society,, multiple sclerosis is an immune-mediated process in which abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system. The immune system attacks the myelin, which is fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers, as well as the nerve fibers themselves. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue, resulting in a wide variety of symptoms ranging from fatigue, depression and pain, to difficulty walking, hearing loss, seizures and more. There is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis, but treatment is available.