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Waterford Teen Awarded National MS Society Scholarship

By Megan Alexander, Public Relations Intern, National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter
WATERFORD, Conn. —  Olivia Burdick jumped out of bed Christmas morning in restlessly expectation. Just nine years old, she could barely contain herself as she awaited the opening of gifts and what was sure to be a holiday feast fit for royalty. However, instead, Burdick awoke to a day full of anxiety and fear. A day landing her family, not around the radiant evergreen, but rather sitting for endless hours in an emergency room. Her mother, Melissa Burdick, had woken up that morning unable to walk or even feel her legs.

Olivia Burdick
A few days later Melissa Burdick was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Burdick became her mother’s primary caretaker in her home and, although her mother’s condition has since improved, Burdick has learned to help her mom inject her weekly shot, and oversees many other chores around the house.

“Seeing my mother every day triumphing in her battle with MS is my greatest inspiration,” says Burdick.
Not only does witnessing her mother’s challenges spur her to work hard in her academics and extracurricular activities, it has also motivated Burdick to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant.

“I would consider myself successful in life if I could do what my mother’s doctors have done for her: provide patients with surgeries and treatments that would save them or better their quality of life,” Burdick says.

A native of Waterford, Conn., Burdick is a member of the Medical Careers Club, Class Council and Key Club. She also volunteers and shadows at a local hospital. She has competed internationally in French at an event in Quebec called International Comp Dictee des Ameriques. Graduating this spring from Waterford High School, Burdick is planning to attend the University of Connecticut, Avery Point Campus in Groton, Conn., as a biology major.

“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. Burdick has demonstrated an exceptional ability to aptly express the challenges facing a family affected by MS, while remaining hopeful and positive.”

More then 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Melissa Burdick, 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 National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 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.

Upon receiving the letter announcing her award, Burdick’s excitement could be heard around the neighborhood.
“When I opened it I screamed!” Burdick recalls. “My mother has become my greatest role model by inspiring me with her unrelenting strength and optimism, stirring me to face challenges and encouraging me to excel in school and in other aspects of my life. Multiple sclerosis has defeated neither my mother nor myself, but has only made us stronger.”

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/ <http://ctn.nationalmssociety.org/> . For more information, please contact the Connecticut Chapter at 860-714-2300 or visit http://www.ctfightsms.org/ <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 an 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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