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MS Patient, Singer Gives to Others


MS Patient, Singer Gives to Others

Donor of the Day, By Shelly Banjo

In true country-music fashion, Clay Walker can boil his life down to a simple refrain:"I don't have to think about tomorrow, I don't need anything money can buy, I don't have to beg, steal, or borrow, I just want to live until I die."

The sentiment from his 1994 hit single, "Live Until I Die," still holds true for the singer, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than a decade ago.

Clay Walker Gives to Others

What he initially viewed as a death sentence turned into a second career with the 2003 launch of Band Against MS, a nonprofit to support research and help people with multiple sclerosis. Now, through the foundation, he's making a $50,000 donation to fund pediatric multiple sclerosis research at Stony Brook University Medical Center in Stony Brook, N.Y., bringing his total giving for research of this kind to more than $2 million.

"Stony Brook is taking the fresh ideas of doctors who aren't just running down the same trails," Mr. Walker says."There's no better way to start looking for a cure than by working with children."

About 400,000 people in the United States have the chronic, neurological disease and 200 others are diagnosed each week, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Until this decade, multiple sclerosis had been seen as an adult disease, says Lauren Krupp, director of the national Pediatric MS Center at Stony Brook University, whose research Mr. Walker's donation will fund.

The center itself was founded in 2006 to work specifically with clinical care and scientific research of children and adolescents 'with multiple sclerosis.

Ironically, Dr. Krupp says it makes more sense to study the disease in children, rather than adults, because children haven't had as much exposure to the environmental toxins that many doctors think contribute to the cause of the disease.

"Doctors didn't want to lay a frightening disease on a kid unless there was something they could do about it," she says. "Now, we're working to do something about it."

When Mr. Walker was initially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, doctors estimated that he had, at most, eight years to live. A few months later, Copaxone, a drug that is now commonly used to treat patients with multiple sclerosis, was approved for use in the United States.

Sinc.e then, the father of four children has been in remission and continues to tour the country as both a country music performer and a fundraiser for his foundation.

"The answers are slow to come but we're not at a dead end. Through research we're going to give these kids the future they deserve," Mr. Walker says.

Stony Brook University Hospital
101 Nicolls Road Stony Brook, NY 11794
(631) 444-4000