Mother whose son has MS top fundraiser for walk
A wheelchair, arthritis and the weight of being a caregiver, along with her husband, to their 48-year-old son won’t stop Ruth Head from participating Saturday in Walk MS Grand Junction.
For the 18th consecutive year, Head will walk (or this time, ride, because of a leg injury) in the event at Canyon View Park.
Head, 69, and her husband, Larry, 72, have lived in Hotchkiss since 2002, when they moved from Clifton. They are inspired to support the Grand Junction walk each year by their son, Byron Head, who has struggled with multiple sclerosis since 1983.
Through the walks, Ruth Head has raised about $75,000 for MS research, which makes her the top fundraiser for Grand Junction’s Walk MS event, according to Jeanine Spellman, director of communications for a marketing firm representing Walk MS Wyoming-Colorado.
“I just would like to see a cure for our son, for all of them,” Ruth said.
Head saw a pamphlet for Walk MS in 1995 and immediately signed up to walk. She asked friends and family to sponsor her. After three years, she was too timid to continue asking for money in person. So she began sending letters explaining why she was walking, what MS is, and how the walk benefits MS research. She began enclosing a poem she wrote about her son with the letter in 2004.
“I walk not only for Byron but for the many more who will be put to the test/ When they are told they have MS,” Head writes in the poem.
Head went from raising $550 in her first year to raising $5,195 last year. She sent 140 letters this year and has received donations from half of those people, so far.
Her son was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987 when he was finishing school at Denver Institute of Technology. He first noticed symptoms of MS, although he didn’t immediately know that’s what they were, shortly after starting school at the institute in 1983. He had trouble seeing and felt numb on his right side.
Byron’s condition gradually deteriorated to the point where he could not walk without a cane or walker. Now he uses a power wheelchair. He cannot talk or feed himself and has not been able to work since 1990, when he moved from Denver to Clifton to be near his parents. He now lives in a home behind his parents’ house in Hotchkiss and needs constant monitoring. Ruth says it’s hard to watch what MS is doing to her son. Participating in the walk, she said, is her way of contributing to hope others will not suffer from MS in the future.
“It’s important to support the MS Society so someday they may have a cure. Polio, they worked at it until they had a cure. I think one day they’ll have a cure for MS,” she said.