BUFFALO - Frewsburg native Mary Gabalski will be honored Friday by a the National MS Society Upstate New York Chapter with the Volunteer On the Move award at its Champions On the Move Luncheon in Buffalo.
She is one of 10 award recipients being recognized for achievement in the multiple sclerosis movement. In Chautauqua County alone, there are more than 300 people who are living with multiple sclerosis. The rate of multiple sclerosis in Upstate New York is twice the national average, according to the National MS Society Upstate New York Chapter.
Gabalski helps coordinate programs offered by the Upstate New York Chapter's Buffalo office, and for the past three years, has helped the organization coordinate Walk MS Jamestown. Walk MS is the chapter's major fundraiser which takes place in about 20 Upstate New York communities each year.
"Gabalski's dedication is truly inspirational," said Christy Missico, Walk MS campaign manager. "Because of her involvement and leadership, we had more than 100 participants at Walk MS Jamestown, and more impressively - that site was able to pass its fundraising goal by more than $11,000."
For the past five years, Gabalski has served on the board of the Chautauqua Region MS Society, and the past three as its president. The Chautauqua Region MS Society is a small, local organization that serves more 200 people with multiple sclerosis in the Chautauqua County area, including Warren, Pennsylvania and western Cattaraugus County, and provides educational programs and social activities that inspire fellowship with others who are living with multiple sclerosis.
"Being the child of a mother with MS, I have first-hand and lifelong knowledge of the effects of MS on the family," Gabalski said. "So I strive to bring normalcy to the lives of those with MS that I encounter."
She attributes the quality of life she shared with her mother and sisters to the loving care and devotion of her father.
"MS was not going to stop the Dunning Family from having a normal, every-day lifestyle, and my father made sure of that," Gabalski said. "We took trips, visited friends and family, went shopping, attended community events, ate dinner out and continued life as if there was no constant presence of the wheelchair in their midst."
Gabalski said her efforts today to raise money for a cure and support multiple sclerosis patients and their families are spurred by her devotion to the memory of her mother, but more importantly to assure that her nephew, who also has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, will live a long and healthy life despite living with the symptoms of the disease.