IOWA CITY — Curt Ehlinger says multiple sclerosis has impacted his family for decades.
Now, the Dubuque native is running as part of a cross-country relay that aims to raise awareness and funds to battle the crippling disease in which the immune system attacks the nervous system.
Ehlinger, 46, is to run through Iowa City Friday as part of his 176-mile marathon from West Des Moines to Davenport that began June 27 and ends Sunday.
Ehlinger said his mother, Penny Ehlinger, was diagnosed with MS 38 years ago.
“As a young child, I remember her not being able to get out of bed for weeks and months at a time,” he said.
Today, Ehlinger said his mother walks 3 miles a day. Seeing her determination and resilience is what inspired him to participate in the run.
“(For me) there’s getting tired and soreness, but when I think about people with MS, they don’t have a choice when things hurt and the symptoms,” he said. “This is something I can do in their honor.”
Ehlinger’s leg is part of a larger 3,000-mile MS Run the US Relay that began in Los Angeles in mid-April and ends in New York City on Aug. 13. Ehlinger is among runners completing 18 different segments of the race.
The Relay is an annual event organized by MS Run the US Inc., a non-profit organization founded in 2010 that focuses on raising awareness of MS and money to find a cure.
This is Ehlinger’s first time taking part.
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“He is determined and he has a big heart and you can tell this means so so much to him,” said Rachel Aldrich, a member of Ehlinger’s support road crew.
Amy Van Dyke, community engagement manager for MS Run the US, said each runner is required to raise $10,000 for the cause in order to run. As of Friday, Ehlinger has raised more than $37,000, “completely blowing it out of the water,” Van Dyke said.
The money raised is to be used for MS research and for families affected by the disease who are in need of necessities, Aldrich said.
Ehlinger said his goal is to raise awareness about MS and to inspire others to make a difference in whatever they are passionate about.
“Someday, we’re going to touch someone who is going to make an even bigger difference,” he said.
Donations are still being accepted for Ehlinger’s efforts. Those who wish to donate online can do so by visiting www.tinyurl.com/CurtFightsMS.