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Guilford Graduate Awarded National MS Society Scholarship

GUILFORD, Conn. — Kelsey Hodge, 17, is reaping the rewards of her hard work battling the sometimes debilitating disease, multiple sclerosis. Although Hodge does not have the disease herself, it has been a part of her life since six months after her birth, when her mother, Kim, was diagnosed.

Kelsey Hodge

“I can’t remember a day without having to deal with multiple sclerosis,” says Hodge, a Guilford, Conn., resident.

Her mother’s disease progressed quickly and weakened her to the point where she had to rely on a wheelchair. This forced Hodge, the youngest of three, and her single mother to move in with her grandparents. Hodge and her mother lived in the dining room for three years until the funds were available to build another wheelchair-accessible section onto the house.

At age 6 Hodge became involved with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter and founded the Junior Ambassador program. Hodge and her mother also decided to help expand the Walk MS event and establish a walk site in Madison, which eventually moved to Clinton, Conn. Hodge has been on the Walk MS committee since, and participates with her mother every year.

Hodge now helps her mother daily with tasks ranging from getting dressed, to moving in and out of her wheelchair, to managing medications. For her loving care and devotion, as well as her academic prowess, Kelsey has been awarded the 2008 National Multiple Sclerosis Society Scholarship.

“It is a pleasure to, along with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, award this scholarship to such a bright and compassionate young woman,” says Lisa Gerrol, president and chief professional officer of the Connecticut Chapter. “Ms. Hodge has demonstrated an exceptional ability to aptly express the challenges facing a family affected by MS, while remaining hopeful and positive.”

More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Kim Hodge, battle the potentially debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. There is no cure. Symptoms can include, among other things, numbness in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness, loss of mobility and, in some more severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted. Funds donated to the Connecticut Chapter, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure. These funds also provide for vital programs and services offered by the chapter to those in the state living with multiple sclerosis.

Kelsey Hodge’s volunteer efforts do not stop with fighting MS, however. Hodge is a certified EMT, and the captain of her town’s Explore Post, which will allow her to join Guilford’s fire department when she turns 18. She is an accomplished soccer player, having played on premier travel leagues in her town. She is also a cheerleader, tennis player, flautist, singer and, in case there is any time left over, she is a student teller at the Guilford Savings Bank.

A native of Madison, Conn., Hodge graduated from Guilford High School, and will be attending Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Conn., in the fall to become a nurse specializing in pediatric trauma.

In spite of being recognized multiple times for her work with the National MS Society, Hodge says she was still surprised when she was awarded the scholarship.

“I was shocked when I received the letter,” says Hodge with a smile. “You never expect to receive a national scholarship.”

And the money is greatly needed. Hodge’s mother is not able to work due to her condition, so Hodge will be putting herself through college.

“I’m really proud of Kelsey; she keeps herself busy with activities that make a difference,” Hodge’s mother says. “If someone needs her she’s always there, even if its 2 a.m.”

“The trials we have faced have brought my mother and me closer together. She is not living it alone. We are living it together,” Hodge says.

The National MS Society Scholarship program is offered yearly to vocational, technical or college-bound, high school seniors diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or whose parent has MS. Applications can be downloaded by going to http://www.nationalmssociety.org/. For more information, please contact the Connecticut Chapter at 860-714-2300 or visit http://www.ctfightsms.org/.

National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, public relations intern Megan Alexander is resident of Cheshire attending Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y. Alexander is majoring in public relations and psychology. If you or someone you know would be interested in completing and internship with the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter Communications Department, please contact Karen E. Butler at kbutler@ctfightsMS.org.

For More Information
Contact Karen Butler
Vice President of Communications
Phone: 860.714.2300, ext. 230


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