Orange ribbons tied around trees in the center of campus promote
Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week, March 12-18.
Johnathan Wilbanks / The Collegian
More than 50 trees are decorated with bright orange ribbons in the center of campus.
At first glance, they might be mistaken for warning flags at a construction site. In reality, they are a powerful symbol of the continuing fight against multiple sclerosis.
Today marks the second day of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Week in Fresno and throughout the nation, and Fotini Alferis encourages everyone to get involved with the cause.
“We call it the color for a cure,” Alferis said about the ribbon displays. She is the development manager at the National MS Society.
“We have different activities going on, so it really raises awareness,” she added.
More than 400,000 people are affected by MS in the United States and more than 2.1 million worldwide. Those who are diagnosed with MS are usually between the ages of 20 and 50. More women than men are diagnosed.
Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating and often unpredictable disease attacking the central nervous system, the control center of the human body.
The myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells becomes sclerotic, interrupting the information flow between the brain and body.
It is like trying to have a conversation with someone under water. Those affected may be able to see that person and notice they are trying to convey a message, but what they are saying is muddled by an unfamiliar medium.
“This was something new that I had never heard of,” said Student Public Health Association member Hazel Reyes.
“It was interesting because it’s an autoimmune disease that stops people from moving,” Reyes said.
“I think it was like two years ago in my public health class, Fotini, the development manager who also has MS, came in and talked to us about the disease and that she had it. I never heard of anyone who had it until I met her. And then I started volunteering for her this year.”
As symptoms become more severe, the disease can interfere with speech, vision, writing and walking, according to medicinenet.com. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to paralysis.
There is currently no method to predict the progress and severity of the disease in a specific person. Research is being conducted to learn more about the disease and how to fight it.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society funds research to help those with MS and collaborates with other similar organizations around the world.
The Society also provides services and programs to aid those afflicted by MS, and has donated $40 million in support of 325 research projects worldwide.
The site www.nationalMSsociety.org contains additional information on how to get involved in the search for a cure.
“It’s a great cause. I’ve learned a lot by doing my internship there,” said Fresno State student Ana Hernandez. “Fotini is a great person and she has really opened my eyes with what it actually is. She has MS and I can see her goal is to actually find a cure, and I love that.”
Hernandez also loved that Alfieris is proactive and is taking the time to engage people in the community and help those with MS.
“I do think it’s a great cause and that’s why people should join the movement,” Hernandez said. “That’s why I was getting involved with putting up ribbons.”