A dozen Mercer Island residents were part of Team Armadillo at Walk MS on April 14 in Seattle. Walk MS is an annual major fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis MS Society. The walkers are friends and supporters of Rebecca Pursley, an Islander who lives with MS.
Pursley, 60, is also the captain of Team Armadillo and recruited walkers for the team from Jazzercise classes held at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center. The team earned second place in fundraising for the Seattle event by raising over $16,000 this year.
Team Armadillo was formed after Pursley’s diagnosis in 1994.
“The onset of my MS was sudden and dramatic,” she said. “I left my fourth-fifth grade classroom one day and did not return for two months. My students kept in touch with me, however, and as I later discovered, were quite busy during my absence.”
Without her knowledge, the class formed a team and collected over $500 to support the MS Walk. They created Team Armadillo to honor her fascination with and devotion to armadillos.
When she arrived at her first MS Walk, Pursley was surprised to see 27 children in armadillo costumes waiting for her. They took turns pushing her wheel chair and carrying banners the entire route.
In the years since, Team Armadillo has raised over $100,000 for life-changing programs and research. Thanks to the therapies supported by NMSS-funded research, Pursley said she has been able to get out of her wheelchair and walk.
Pursley also credits Jazzercise with helping her regain her strength and mobility.
“When I began Jazzercise, I was unable to participate fully. But with the help and motivation of others, I kept going. My strength, stamina and balance have all improved dramatically.”
And, she adds, “I have lost 20 pounds.”
Get ready for Maui-style
Jazzercise and Team Armadillo are collaborating for another event, “Jazzercise Maui Style,” beginning at 6 p.m., April 26, at the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church. There will be island-themed door prizes, games, food and professional entertainment.
A donation of $15 will go to support the work of the NMSS Greater Washington Chapter.