PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "Women represent a huge portion of the people with MS," said Linda McAleer. "So, we got together 20 years ago and put a program together that would invite us all to participate to make lives easier for people with MS."
McAleer, whose sister has multiple sclerosis, has been on the front lines of fundraising and spreading awareness for the disease since 2002. She is the founding co-chair of Women Against MS, a group within the National Multiple Sclerosis Society that hosts special events.
"We've raised over three and a half million dollars over those years by bringing people together to make a difference," said McAleer.
In its 20th year, the "Women Against MS Luncheon" was renamed to the "Together for a Cure Luncheon" in order to put the goalposts in sight. Since its founding, the list of FDA-approved disease modifying therapies has grown from a mere handful to more than 20, according to the National MS Society.
Today's function at Bartram's Garden was the first time it has been held in-person since 2019. Linda Hashemi from Randolph Township, New Jersey, attended with her daughter.
"My father had MS and then I was diagnosed when I was about 55," said Hashemi. "It is a neurological disease that affects your balance, your walking, your mobility, your thinking."
Multiple sclerosis can affect each person differently. But thanks to medical advancements, Hashemi's side effects have not progressed.
"MS Doctors today reassured me that they've made so much progress, that I was not going to end up in the same position my father was in," she said.
And she is not alone. Women Against MS committee member Cindy Bertrando announced good news to the hundreds of attendees this afternoon.
"The MS community has achieved more progress in the past five years than in the 70 years that preceded it," she said.
Linda McAleer hopes that everyone can soon turn their diagnosis into a success story.
"I always say it would be wonderful if we didn't have to come together for a cure because the cure is in front of us," she said. "With additional fundraising, we're going to get there and we're going to get there before the next 20 years."