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Lindsay Major Ringgold holds a photograph of her father, John Major, who died of complications related to Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, at age 56.
Lindsay Major Ringgold holds a photograph of her father, John Major, who died of complications related to Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, at age 56. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Major Ringgold)

Lindsay Major Ringgold has the routine down pat. And well she should. This year marks the 11th in which Ringgold will participate in the Challenge Walk for MS in memory of her father. She knows how to prepare for, and what to expect from, the two-day, 30-mile event.

Ringgold began training several weeks before the Challenge Walk, which this year is on Sept. 12-13.

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"I've been walking 2 miles every evening, first with my dog, then with my husband. I amp it up on the weekends," said Ringgold, 36, a Lutherville resident who works in marketing and sales. Husband James Ringgold is in information technology.

A few weeks ago, Ringgold sent to family and friends her fundraising letter, asking for contributions to MS. "I've been fundraising for MS for so long, they're expecting my letter," she said. Her goal is to raise $6,000 from this year's Challenge Walk.

Over the years Ringgold not only has participated in 10 previous Challenge Walks but, before that, numerous smaller 5K walks for MS. She figures she has raised $100,000 for MS, of which $60,000 is from the Challenge Walks.

"I'm doing this in memory of dad, but the money can't help him now," she said. "But it can go for things like a wheelchair lift in a van, so a person with MS can participate in family life."

"That was important for my family, that we could do things together," added Ringgold, whose father, John Major, was diagnosed with MS before she was born, had a restricted lifestyle during her youth and died in 2006 at age 56 from MS-related complications.

The 13th Challenge Walk for MS will follow a route on the Eastern Shore, starting in Cambridge and ending in St. Michaels. Overnight accommodations have been made in Easton for the expected 400 walkers. Walkers cover 20 miles the first day, 10 the second.

Ringgold likes to do the Challenge Walks with her friend from childhood, Amy Trowbridge, and Amy's husband, Nathan Trowbridge. They are part of a team, titled "Fishing for a Cure," after her father's fondness for fishing.

Other team members include her husband, mother, sister, cousins and nephews, all of whom wear light blue T-shirts with the team title and man a rest stop, one of many along the route. They hand out water, oranges, peanut butter sandwiches, Swedish fish candy and fish stickers.

"We even have a baby pool with plastic fish," Ringgold said of the rest stop. "We always had fishing gear in the car. If he and mom were out driving and saw a pond or lake, they'd pull over to the side of the road so he could go fishing. If he caught something, we'd eat it."

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is "an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. The cause of MS is still unknown - scientists believe the disease is triggered by as-yet-unidentified environmental factors in a person who is genetically predisposed to respond."

Katie Amos, senior development manager of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Maryland Chapter, said there are 10,000 confirmed MS patients in Maryland. The severity of the disease varies but can include debilitating fatigue, numbness, tingling in the fingers, loss of mobility and loss of vision.

Although there are U.S. Food & Drug Administration-approved medications to modify symptoms, there is as yet no cure for MS. "Finding a cure for MS is our goal. We fund research and also provide local programs and services for MS patients," Amos said of activities such as self-help groups and community meetings.

The Challenge Walk for MS is one of the Maryland Chapter's major fundraisers and its major community event.

"There is a candlelight ceremony to honor those with MS. It gets emotional," she said of the Challenge Walks, which have raised a total of $350,000 over the years.

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By the time Ringgold was in fourth grade, her father was confined to a wheelchair. Even so, she remembers him as being an active part of her life.

"He was very involved with us," she said of her and her older sister. "He was not out there coaching baseball but oversaw the whole school basketball program as commissioner."

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