Sometimes people with mobility challenges have a tendency to hibernate, even when there’s dancing and fun to be had.
Gary Gagnon of the MS Reaching Out Society is hoping to draw a big crowd to the organization’s annual dance, which takes place on March 11 at the Fifth Avenue Seniors’ Activity Centre.
Gagnon was diagnosed in 2004 at the age of 49, after falling a few times while running – one of his favourite activities.
“That’s why I got curious about what was going on,” he says, noting the disease has affected his left leg and arm “I am still able to drive, and if I use a cane I can walk short distances, but I can’t write anymore because I’m left-handed.”
Gagnon says that, like most other people with MS, he suffers from fatigue, and misses activities he once took for granted. He does however, continue to volunteer at the Reaching Out Society and works out regularly at ProActive Fitness.
“I think we’ve been doing it at least 10 maybe 15 years,” says Gagnon of the group’s dance and major fundraiser, which features, a silent auction, food and refreshments. “The Barn Cats will perform and admission is by donation.”
The Reaching Out Society uses the money from the dance and their other major fundraiser, Christmas gift-wrapping, to buy mobility equipment for needy people with MS, people who cannot afford to buy items such as scooters, standing frames or walkers.
Not only does the society buy equipment, it is delivered to people’s homes and set up for them. As well, Reaching Out springs for occupational therapists to visit folks in their homes, brings in the occasional special speaker and has volunteers in the office to listen and offer support.
“Every year we try to get together take local MS people out for dinner and try to put a smile on their faces,” says Gagnon. “And we have a morning coffee group at Chester’s on the second Thursday of every month from 10 to 12.”
The Reaching Out Society’s office is located at 371 Hudson Ave. NE, across from the post office and next door to the MatchBox.
Gagnon’s body may be letting him down, but his attitude continues to be upbeat and optimistic. He says volunteering at the Reaching Out office has given him the opportunity to meet a lot of people and made him realize he is not as badly off compared to some other people with MS.
“Sometimes when they’re ill, people hibernate; they back into themselves. I guess they feel badly so they do the turtle thing,” he says, noting there are 60-plus members of the society and volunteers are trying to reach them all to let them know about the dance.“We try to get people out of their shells, socialize and enjoy their lives as much as they can.”
The MS Reaching Out Society is not affiliated with the MS Society of Canada, who Gagnon says are more involved with research.
this Saturday’s dance takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. and the society is trying to fill the seniors activity centre with fun-loving dancers.