Viking Challenge for MG 2022
Walkers, volunteers, and sponsor reps – 110 in all – gathered on June 19, 2022, in Elmhurst, Illinois, to kick off the 10th Annual Viking Challenge for Myasthenia Gravis. It was the first in-person event for this group in two years, and each person was prepared to rally in support of those who struggle with the rare autoimmune disease called “MG” for short.
The event netted $43,000 for Conquer Myasthenia Gravis. These funds will help the nonprofit organization provide programs of support, education, awareness, and research funding for MG patients.
10th Annual Walk, 50th Anniversary
Those attending had plenty to celebrate. This year’s Challenge marked Conquer MG’s 10th annual Chicago-area walk to lift up individuals who have myasthenia. Also, Conquer MG is celebrating its 50th year of serving the MG community. Dads got a shout-out, too, for a little Father’s Day fun.
Conquer MG Board President Bob Rosecrans opened the event, noting, “We began in 1972, when “The Godfather” was in movie theaters.” Executive Director Joan Wincentsen added, “Around that time, in 1970, scientists had just figured out a connection between MG and a specific antibody. They were beginning to understand MG as an autoimmune disease.”
Rosecrans explained, “Many of us have had our health affected by MG – or seen a family member stricken. We walk to promote awareness, support our loved ones, and to support others who have this difficult disease.”
Named the “Viking Challenge for MG,” the event inspires those affected to “act like warriors to conquer myasthenia.” This year’s event honored the memory of Tracy Shackelford, who passed away suddenly in August 2021. Tracy was active on the Conquer MG Board, and was dedicated to supporting the MG community.
Myasthenia gravis is a rare condition which disrupts how nerves communicate with muscles, causing fluctuating muscle weakness that is sometimes severe. It can affect the muscles that control eye movements, eyelids, chewing, swallowing, breathing, coughing and facial expression, as well as the arms and legs.
Some Opted for Virtual
An additional 37 individuals participated in the Viking Challenge for MG virtually. They had the option to participate where they wanted, and when they wanted between June 4-17. Most (18 of the 37) opted to walk, but some mixed it up by walking, running, and biking. One person even racked up miles by paddling. At the top of the leaderboard, Mike Shackelford on Tracy’s Legacy Team biked/walked nearly 200 miles. Jean Fee (on the team Dessie’s Dad) and David Snyder (Team Lisa Griffin 2022) placed 2nd and 3rd with 105 and 100 miles respectively.
Hoffmann Receives Tracy Shackelford MG Service Award
After participants completed the three mile walk around Berens Park, Rosecrans presented Conquer MG’s first-ever Tracy Shackelford MG Service Award to Mary Kay Hoffmann of Glenview.
Up until the pandemic Mary Kay led the Chicago North Suburban MG Support Group. In nominating Mary Kay, a group member explained, ” She made meetings informative, accessible, comfortable, and fun. She encouraged each of us on a path to be successful in our health goals, and always was available to answer questions. Mary Kay continues to go the extra mile to reach out and keep MG patients connected. She is sympathetic but is also able to help individuals to see a more positive direction, especially if someone was having a particularly rough patch.”
Like its inspiration, the Tracy Shackelford MG Service Award recognizes an individual who advocates for others in the MG community with persistence, compassion, and care.
Wincentsen Recognized with “Above and Beyond” Award
In a surprise move, the Conquer MG Board elected to announce a second service award. Board Secretary Tammy Carter presented long-time Executive Director Joan Wincentsen with the Above and Beyond Award, “for always exceeding expectations, always reaching above and beyond in the service of individuals who have myasthenia.” Carter and Rosecrans lauded Wincentsen’s commitment to those who have this rare disease, citing her work with individuals, wellness initiatives, and MGNet – through which the organization funds cutting edge research.
Wincentsen thanked Rosecrans and Carter, adding “I never thought my own illness would lead to meaningful and interesting work! I feel deeply for others dealing with chronic illness like MG. The fears you have about health and relationships and your personal value…well, it can be very challenging. I’m grateful to have the support of a hard-working, collaborative Board.
These people also were recognized for their contributions:
- In Person – Most Funds Raised: Sara Hasemeyer ($5,811)
- In Person – Most Spirit/Best Viking: Victor Yipp
- Virtual – Most Miles: Mike Shackelford, member of Tracy’s Legacy Team (198.7 miles)
- Virtual – Most Funds Raised: Madison Shackelford ($1,555)