Engaged in Mission: Jennifer Thomas

Engaged in Mission: Jennifer Thomas

Jennifer Thomas is engaged in mission, fighting a terrible disease. It was Jennifer and her family’s natural reaction after she received the shock of her live – a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, or MS, in 2005. In response, Jennifer and her family host Body and Soul, an annual benefit for the Minnesota chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that impacts the central nervous system. In it, the body’s immune system attacks the myelin, a sheath that surrounds nerve cells. When the myelin is damaged, it forms scar tissue, or scleroses. This damage can distort or interrupt the nerve impulses traveling between the brain and the nerves, producing a variety of symptoms. It’s frustratingly unpredictable, with affected individuals experiencing varying symptoms at different times.

Jennifer and her brother, BJ, are close. On the Body and Soul website, he described his sister like this. “Do you have a role model in your life? Do you have someone that you would call your best friend? Do you have someone you confide in? Do you have people that you admire and look up to? Do you know someone that you would do anything for? I do and it happens to be my sister, Jennifer Thomas.” So it’s not surprising that BJ looked for a way to help. Shortly after Jennifer’s diagnosis, Body and Soul was started in Jennifer’s honor.

This past September, over 200 people attended the event, which included cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, live music and a silent auction. At the event, Jennifer shared about her evolving relationship with MS. With each passing year, she has come to view her MS with gratitude for all it can teach her – profound gratitude for the body she has, motivation to make sense of her life in new ways, an opportunity to speak abut something that affects her, and the experience of family, it’s broadest sense, at Body and Soul.

Jennifer described it this way. “MS is a chronic disease that will be with me for the rest of my life. I am learning to be grateful for its presence in my life. Most importantly, I am grateful for the annual fundraising event, MS Body & Soul. To date we have raised over $87,000 for the MS Society! The money we raise provides treatment and support for people that are not able to afford appointments, exams, and expensive treatments. We raise money that makes research possible to hopefully end MS’ devastating presence for my children and grandchildren. Once a year, I am honored to gather with nearly everyone I know and care about to celebrate my good health and work toward stopping MS’ impact on others.

Want to help?  Contact Jennifer at jennifermlavelle@yahoo.com.

Jennifer’s story is another example of those who are engaged in mission outside the walls of Colonial. Their story has inspired others, who nominated them for the piece, which was prepared by Journalism Task Force member Mary Fisher. (Click here to learn more about our “Engaged in Mission” initiative or to nominate someone to have their story told.)

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