Arbutus man walking the walk to support fight against MS
By Nelson Coffin
Apr 08, 2015 | 8:51 AM
Whenever he can, Jeff Warner not only walks the walk to raise funds for MS (multiple sclerosis) research. The Arbutus resident also talks the talk when it comes to convincing others to make donations to the cause.
Warner and a team he founded, "The Beasts," have walked the 5-kilometer-course (3.1 miles) together, and plan to do so again at the Walk MS Baltimore City event beginning at the Power Plant Live near the Inner Harbor on April 26.
Warner, 40, a research physicist for the United States Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, has a good reason to help out. His brother, James Harris Warner, was diagnosed with MS in 2001.
"He's mostly in a wheelchair now," Warner said about his year-older brother, who goes by his middle name, Harris, and lives on the Eastern Shore. "He tries to fight it by using a walker as much as he can, but he can't always do that."
The fundraising part of the event is off to a slow start this year, mainly because as the Beasts' captain, Warner, said he didn't begin to solicit donations until about a month ago.
That means the Beasts are still some $3,000 shy of matching the $5,500 they contributed to last year's coffers.
"We are currently ranked No. 3 for top-team fundraiser, and I am ranked No. 4 for top individual fundraiser for the walk (in Baltimore City)," he said. "We are always open for new members to join our team. Last year, our team was about 25 people and I would like to increase that number."
He would also like others to chip in, considering he hasraised all but $455 of the$2,576 brought in this year.
"I was never much of one to donate until I found out how much things cost," Warner said.
For instance, he said his brother's monthly injection of Tysabri, a drug designed for those afflicted withrelapsing MS, costs $3500 per dose.
"That's why I do what I do," he said, noting that the MS Society will help those with financial needs if it can.
Harris said he and his brother were close growing up and wasn't surprised by his younger brother's actions. "It's cool," he said. "It doesn't surprise me.
"He kinda worries about me, like my dad does," he said.
Warner said that while MS affects people in a wide variety of forms, his brother has a debilitating version. "Unfortunately, he has a bad case," he said.
Harris Warner said it was about this time of year when he was first diagnosed. "I was showing some symptoms of it, but wasn't sure what was going on," he said, referring to tingling in his hands and a dead feeling in his foot.
While there's no known cause of MS, the theory that there's a genetic component can't be dismissed.
"My mother's cousin had it," Jeff Warner said.
According to the MS Society website, "MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease, which means that, instead of defending the body against harmful invaders (such as viruses or bacteria), the immune system attacks the body itself."
With no cure in sight, the battle to conquer MS continues with supporters like Warner and the Beasts doing their part.
Jeff Warner's buddy, Nick German, joined the Beasts last year, "because it's a great cause and it's such a touching story about Jeff and his brother."
German, an operations manager for Signa HealthSpring, said that, despite the gravity of the cause, the event itself is all about having a good time while helping others.
"We're there to support Jeff and his brother," the Canton resident said. "But we have a fun time, too. There are a lot of laughs and giggles."
NASA researcher and longtime friend Melanie Berg, whose daughter suffers from MS, said that she's not surprised that Warner is able to cadge donations from a network of friends, colleagues and associates.
"Jeff is a very hard worker," she said. "He and his wife, for obvious reasons, are very involved with the MS Society. He loves his brother very much. People care about Jeff because he cares so much about others."
Some 1,000 people are expected to take part in the walk on April 26, according to release, and the event is expected to raise more than $175,000 to support research and programs and services for people living with MS. For information, go to WalkMS.org.
To contribute to Jeff Warner's team, go tohttp://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/JeffWarner
• MS is thought to affect more than 2 million people around the world.
• It is about two to three times more common in women than in men.
• An MS diagnosis generally occurs between 20 and 50 years of age, but it can also happen when you're younger or older.
• Nobody knows exactly what causes MS, but research is being conducted to investigate environmental factors, infectious agents (such as bacteria or a virus), genetic predisposition (a family history of MS) and ethnicity — although anyone can get relapsing MS, a large percentage are of Northern European descent.