CHESHIRE — At the annual Walk MS event on Sunday, people wore matching T-shirts of many colors, but the color of the day was orange.
It was the theme color of the walk itself, a fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Michelle Zimnoch, logistics manager, said nearly 2,000 people were expected to attend, about the same as in previous years.
Walkers started and finished at Cheshire High School. The route went along the linear trail through the Patton Drive neighborhood.
“It’s a safe route and it’s very accessible,” Zimnoch said. “We thank all of the families for allowing those with MS to access a route they can actually manage.”
Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease of the central nervous system. Nerve damage affects how the brain and body communicate, causing problems with vision, balance, coordination and pain and fatigue.
Zimnoch said the MS society expected to raise $1.3 million across nine walks in Connecticut, with the Cheshire event raising $280,000.
Dozens of orange-clad people formed Frank’s Entourage, one of the event’s biggest fundraising teams.
“It’s amazing what he’s done for us,” Zimnoch said.
Frank Monteiro, former CEO of MacDermid Performance Solutions, was diagnosed with MS in 2007 while living in Colorado.
Friends started his MS walking team in Colorado as a birthday gift, and it moved with Monteiro back to his home state of Connecticut in 2013.
“There’s always a couple hundred (people) who donate,” said Monteiro, of Prospect. “Whoever’s around comes and walks … We had 250 who actually came and walked last year, that I know of.”
They ordered more than 100 new team T-shirts for this year’s event.
Monteiro lost sight in his left eye, has trouble using his left hand and has numbness in his left side.
In the last couple of years, his team raised more than $100,000. This year, his donation will be less because he’s splitting it between two organizations.
He’s vice chairman of the Connecticut MS Society, the state chapter of the national organization, and vice chairman of St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation.
He’s diverting some larger donors to build an MS clinic at the Waterbury hospital. Still, he expected to raise $50,000 to $60,000 for the walk this year.
Another large team was Team Jenifer.
Jenifer Walsh, of Cheshire, was diagnosed with MS 20 years ago and has been organizing a walking team for 19 years.
About 100 people participated in Team Jenifer.
“I have a lot of friends and family that come ... from in town, from out of town, to walk for me,” Walsh said. “It’s emotional to have all these people here doing this, seeing my name on the back of their shirts. It’s humbling.”
Over the course of the 19 years, the team has raised $350,000. “We do a lot of fundraisers during the year,” Walsh said. Last month, an annual beer tasting at Lane Construction in Cheshire brought in $10,000.
Some came on their own, like Kevin Mahan, of Naugatuck.
Mahan, 62, was diagnosed with MS at age 18. “It started in my eyes, then my legs, then everything,” he said.
Mahan worked on oil and gas well drilling rigs where he became friends with Richard Johnson, of Bethlehem, who walked with him.
Mahan said he keeps returning to walk every year, aided by a rollator walker, because “I’m able to do it,” he said.