South Windsor Teen Receives First Annual Hayley & Michaela Petit MS Youth Award
SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. On Wednesday, Nov. 14, South Windsor, Conn., resident Shane Smith, 16, received the first annual Hayley and Michaela Petit MS Youth Award at the 2007 MS All Stars Awards Celebration, held by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville.
The award was established in memory of the Petit girls’ extraordinary efforts in raising awareness and funds in the fight against multiple sclerosis (MS) and to recognize other youths dedicated to the fight. The first annual award was presented to Smith, who has helped Team Mary over the past seven years raise more than $80,000 for the annual Walk MS: Travelers Walk. Smith himself has raised more than $13,000 over nine years and has actively worked with the chapter throughout the past year to raise awareness, sharing his personal connection to multiple sclerosis with audiences statewide and beyond.
The prestigious award was presented by Cheshire resident William Petit, M.D., who shared with those in attendance the unrelenting commitment of daughters Hayley and Michaela to help find a cure for their mother Jennifer who was diagnosed with MS in 1999. Hayley first began raising funds for the annual Walk MS event when she was just nine years old. Over the course of eight years, she raised more than $55,000. With plans to attend college in September, Hayley prepared to pass the torch to her then 11-year-old sister Michaela.
"It’s good to see kids who care," said Dr. Petit as he announced Smith as the 2007 recipient of the Hayley and Michaela MS Youth Award. "Shane is very deserving of this award. He walks the walk every day caring for his mother."
Smith, whose mother Mary was diagnosed with a progressive form of multiple sclerosis in 1998, has been an active participant in the Manchester MS Walk since 2000. Last year, Smith’s story was featured in several statewide publications, including the Manchester Journal Inquirer, Horizons Magazines and Hartford Magazine. The story of young Shane’s care giving responsibilities caught the eye of the national magazine, Caring Today. Shane and his family were featured in the July/August 2007 issue and also on the publication’s website.
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Mary Smith, battle the potentially debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. There is no cure for MS. Symptoms can include, among others, numbness and tingling in the extremities, difficulties with speech and vision, stiffness and loss of mobility and, in extreme circumstances, complete paralysis.
Events, such as the Walk MS: 2008 Travelers Walk, presented by UnitedHealth Group, provide for ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure. Funds also ensure the continuation of vital programs and services offered by the chapter to those in Connecticut living with multiple sclerosis.
"I am amazed to receive this award," said Smith, who attends East Catholic High School in Manchester, Conn. "To even be mentioned in the same breath as Hayley and Michaela is a great honor. My mother is an inspiration to me. I watch her everyday push herself in the face of painful debilitation. She tries always to be there for others. I want my mom to know I’m here for her."
The 2007 MS All Stars Awards Ceremony recognized top fundraisers in the chapter’s walk, bikes and motorcycle events. More than 100 top event participants attended. The National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, through the efforts of dedicated staff and participants, in 2007 raised more than $1 million from the Walk MS: Travelers Walk, presented by UnitedHealth Group; a record $304,000 from the Bike MS: bkm/Steelcase Ride, presented by SAAB; more than $39,000 from the Motorcycle MS: 2007 Ride, presented by TSI Harley-Davidson/Buell; and more than $175,000 from the Bike MS: Mohegan Sun Ride. The Connecticut Chapter has raised more than $3 million annually for the past four consecutive years.
For more information on chapter events and registering, please go to http://www.ctfightsms.org/. For more information on multiple sclerosis, its effects and programs and services offered by the chapter, please e-mail programs@ctfightsMS.org or visit http://www.ctfightsms.org/.
CUTLINE: Dr. William Petit presents Manchester resident Shane Smith with the first annual Hayley & Michaela Petit MS Youth Award at the 2007 All Stars MS Awards Celebration, hosted by the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville, Conn., on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Karen E. Butler