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#WalkMS 2015: Fundraising Goal Met and Super Swag

Before the walk started, my niece and I smiling for photos. 
Photo credit Annie Smith.

First off, a huge THANK YOU to those of you that donated to Team Kennedys Kickin' it. I am proud to say that I exceeded my personal fundraising goal of $250 and reached $270! In total our team raised $4130.40, which truly was incredible.

This past weekend I walked in Walk MS for the first time, in support of my cousin and other family members and friends that have Multiple Sclerosis. After I committed to participating and started asking people to donate, I discovered that I have acquaintances and friends who have MS that I never knew did. I am so happy that I was able to provide support to this important event.

I had to get up at 3:50 am to get ready, get my 1-year-old son out of bed and in the car, and be to my sisters house across town by 5 am. My sister and I then left Kansas City around 5 am with her two kids and my son. We had a three hour drive to Des Moines, and pulled into the event parking lot at 8:20 am, just in time to register and check out the expo. It sounds hectic, but it really wasn't that bad.

Before the walk started there were several expo booths set up with free swag for participants. This was by far the most swag I have ever gotten from a race/walk event. The venders (mostly pharmaceutical representatives plugging their MS drugs) basically showered you with free stuff, ranging from water bottles, to bottle openers, to a cooling towel, lightweight backpacks, energy snacks, journals, chap stick... and more! There was no guilt involved and the venders were basically competing to give away their stuff to participants. I didn't even get everything and I felt like I had so much free stuff in my arms!

Did I say holy swag bag?

Directly prior to the start of the walk children released orange balloons into the air to symbolize remembrance to those stricken with and taken by MS. 

My son in orange, watching the released balloons float away.

The walk itself was really nice and it was the perfect day for it, although the route was not marked very well at times. You had the option of walking a 1.5 or a 4 mile walk. My immediate family and I ended up walking the 4 mile route, but ended up trekking 5.6 miles because we missed a trail marker and had to backtrack about 3/4 mile to get back on the official route. We told other participants we saw that they had missed the marker too, so at least we weren't the only absent-minded walkers! My 9-year-old niece did a great job of keeping up with the extra mileage and even ran the last quarter mile! I was really proud of her.

My niece and I standing by our team sign.

Running through the finish (although it says start!) line.

It felt good to see family, extended family and so many other participants in the event. I am definitely interested in walking again, but it was a long drive for such a short event held so early in the morning. After we crossed the finish line, the event was over and most people had left. Other running/walking events that I have participated in seem to have more of a celebration afterward, but I've never done a walk for this cause before so it must be structured a little differently. Luckily we had planned to stay in Des Moines that night to spend time with immediate family; making a weekend trip out of the walk was definitely a good idea, or possibly staying in town the night before.

My family and I before the event.

It felt awesome to raise funds, participate in and give time and energy to such a worthy cause. I know there are Walk MS events in Kansas City, and all over the US for that matter. It is really easy to register and get involved. I really didn't know much about this disease until this year. Knowing what I know now, I am happy to contribute what I can to fight MS. Go orange!

Team Kennedys Kickin It, 2015. Photo credit Annie Smith.

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