Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sylvia Lawry

If you think any one issue is too big for you alone to take head on, I challenge you to read the story of Sylvia Lawry and walk away uninspired.

Sylvia Lawry (pictured in the left) was born in Brooklyn in 1915. While attending college to become a lawyer, her younger brother Bernard (pictured in the right) began experiencing visual and balance problems. These problems proved to be early symptoms of MS. For several years the family pursued cures without success and one day Ms. Lawry placed a small classified notice in The New York Times in 1945: “Multiple Sclerosis. Will anyone recovered from it please communicate with patient.”

More than 50 replies came back from individuals as desperate as she to find encouraging news about MS. It was then that Sylvia Lawry realized the need for an organized effort to finance and stimulate research into the cure, treatment, and cause of Multiple Sclerosis. On March 11, 1946, Ms. Lawry, one lone woman, gathered 20 of the nation’s most prominent research scientists and founded what today is known as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. From these humble beginnings, Ms. Lawry lived her life in devotion to the pursuit of a world free of MS.

As Bernard’s health continued to weaken, eventually succumbing to MS-related causes in 1972, Sylvia Lawry recognized there were millions just like her brother in need of help. With the help of Senator Charles Tobey of New Hampshire, who had a daughter with MS, Ms. Lawry personally lobbied Congress and convinced them to adopt legislation on August 15, 1950, establishing what is now the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Until then, government interest in MS was minimal with research expenditures only totaling approximately $14,000. Since then, government appropriations to the Institute have steadily increased, until today they have passed the $1.5 billion milestone, approximately $110 million which directly impacts multiple sclerosis.

Sylvia Lawry pursued her dream of an MS-free world for more than half a century. Although her vision for a cure is not yet a reality, the National MS Society that she alone founded has devoted more than $600 million to MS research since 1946. The passion and hard work of one young woman has resulted in an organization that today has a 50-state network of chapters expending nearly $126 million a year to serve over one million people and which devotes more than $46 million each year to support over 440 research projects internationally., the Society’s web site, receives nearly two million visitors each month. Momentum, the Society’s award-winning quarterly magazine has a readership of over one million.

Sylvia Lawry was an unlikely activist. After her brother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis she recognized that there were other families across the nation touched by MS, like hers, that needed support and resources to help deal with the disease. Sylvia Lawry was one young amazing woman who became the change she wanted to see in the world.
Sylvia Lawry: 1915-2001

And you thought you were just one person!

Dream Big,
“Captain Crunch”

No comments:

Post a Comment