Andrea Dunn put out the call, and the community answered.
The FM96 host, known to listeners as Dunner, spent 10 hours straight Friday morning and afternoon walking on a treadmill on her patio, all with the goal of raising $10,000 for the MS Society of Canada as part of #WeChallengeMS, a virtual fundraising challenge launched by the MS Society amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a goal that was met and then some, thanks to the generosity of London-area listeners.
Dunn, with the help of her two twin boys, announced at the end of her radio show Friday afternoon that the ’10 For 10′ walk had raised $11,270 for the MS Society through text and online donations.
That total then grew after it was revealed on-air that Corus Radio London would be pitching in an additional $5,000, bringing the grand total to $16,270.
The news left Dunn in tears.
“Oh my gosh. That’s way more than I thought it was going to be. I thought maybe we’d get to 10… I was hoping we’d get to 10,000, but I didn’t think… oh wow,” she said.
“Thank you, everyone. That means so much that people want to support and help people with MS. That’s going to go a long way.”
“Crying on the radio, oh man,” she said with a laugh.
Dunn began her walk at 8 a.m. as London’s temperature hovered around the one-degree mark, prompting her to put on as many as 10 layers of clothing to keep warm.
“It was like that scene in Friends where Joey puts on all of Chandler’s clothes,” Dunn told 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady around 3 p.m.
“That’s exactly what I felt like. I had three coats on.”
The walk’s mission was personal for Dunn, marking the 10-year anniversary of her own MS diagnosis at the age of 31.
“I sort of knew what it was, but I had no idea, all the little things about MS,” Dunn told 980 CFPL’s Mike Stubbs around noon, with Stubbs walking on a treadmill in solidarity at his home studio.
“I really didn’t understand what chronic fatigue would be like, or that I wouldn’t be able to just go and lay on the beach and take the sun like that… and the numbness and the tingling, I really didn’t understand much of that until I was living with it every day.”
Dunn recalled feeling scared after her diagnosis, unsure what her future would look like.
“I got nervous about even just what my body might be like, or how quickly my MS would progress,” she said.
“But now that I am 10 years into it, I totally have a better understanding of how I can function everyday with this disease. Diet, exercise, lots of rest. That’s everything that I focus on daily to thrive with the disease.”
May is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and the 10-hour walk-a-thon comes amid a challenging time for the MS Society of Canada, and other organizations across Canada, who have had to put their fundraising plans on hold, alter, or cancel them entirely due to COVID-19.
Dunner’s treadmill walk itself was originally set to take place at Elite Personal Training Studio on March 27, but got pushed back after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and Ontario declared a state of emergency and closed non-essential businesses.
Locally, both fundraisers bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the MS Society for research and support programs every year. Dunner has taken part in both since 2011, joined alongside by family and friends as Team Dunner.
There is currently no cure for MS, but several treatments exist to manage MS, with many others in development. According to the MS Society, 15 disease-modifying therapies have been approved so far by Health Canada.
“When I was diagnosed 10 years ago, I think there were five disease-modifying therapies,” Dunn said.
“At the time, you sort of just picked the best of the worst. Like they all have terrible side effects, so you just kind of pick one, like, ‘well, I guess I can deal with that. Sure, I’ll give myself a needle every day. Let’s do that.'”
Dunn says those with MS can now avoid needles altogether and instead take medication.
“I would’ve chosen that right off the hop, but that medication, that therapy didn’t exist 10 years ago,” she said, highlighting the importance of raising money for new, cutting-edge research into MS.
According to The MS Society of Canada, Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, with 11 people diagnosed every day. The reason why isn’t entirely clear.
The disease, described as complex and unpredictable, causes inflammation in the central nervous system, resulting in injury to myelin, the protective sheath that covers nerves. The damage can lead to physical disability and cognitive impairment.
MS is most commonly diagnosed in people between 15 and 40, with women three times more likely than men to be affected.
— With files from The Canadian Press