Modern Day MS has given me the opportunity to ask MS and Me Media’s Ericka Lyons Richardson and Rick Gortatowsky of Multiple Sclerosis Global Support Network a few questions about Racing MS, an exciting campaign to bring about more awareness to multiple sclerosis by embracing auto sport.
In an effort to raise multiple sclerosis awareness, a field of simulation racing drivers have joined together to change the world of MS. The MS Awareness Series created by Bobby Cheney, owner of The Sim Racing Authority was created with this task in mind. With satellite mapped tracks and race car physics, the drivers put forth exciting events along with MaxSpeed TV for a realistic Nascar-like racing experience and telecast.
The Multiple Sclerosis Global Support Network (MSGSN) was made aware of this awareness effort and engaged in brainstorming to help deliver MS awareness globally. The MSGSN and their media division, MS & Me Media, have sponsored drivers for the 2017-2018 season and partnered in this effort.
Here is a Q & A session with Ericka Richardson and Rick Gortatowsky.
Q: What is the mission of Racing MS?
A: The mission is to raise public awareness for multiple sclerosis. Raising awareness of a chronic illness relatively unknown to many can be quite difficult. Attempting to do so globally makes a difficult task considerably more daunting.
Public awareness is important as it can impact many aspects of MS. From funding of research to how one’s neighbor or relative understand a family member’s condition, for example, and a great deal of landscape in between.
While many public awareness efforts have occurred over the years towards MS, they tend to wax and then wane. Principals within the MSGSN thought long and hard about how this effort can yield results.
Q: Why auto racing and MS?
A: Motorsport is the most popular and watched form of sports in the world. In the US baseball is a national sport. Soccer is popular in many nations. Motorsport outpaces all of these across many genres of motorsport.
As such, here we have a global demographic of people who watch and are involved in motorsport and a health care condition that is global as well. There is global reach with a global target demographic as a global patient-driven organization. The pieces fit together well.
Q: Do you see a metaphorical connection between auto racing and MS?
A: Absolutely. Recently the number of MS patients in the US doubled to an estimated near 1 million. This is in a nation where healthcare is far more accessible than much of the world. What if the prior global estimation is so far off? That 2.5 million people is actually 5 million or more?
While that may seem to still be a small number in comparison to global populations, many people forget the families, friends, employers and more residually impacted by MS.
MS is also an expensive condition and care systems are being pressed to their limits. New healthcare innovations are occurring across the entire health care landscape faster than ever before. With that comes expense.
So, yes, metaphorically and in reality patients and MS families are in a race. A race towards solutions towards better management of their MS. A race for research funding to find more answers. A race towards resources that can help people right now. Ultimately, racing towards finding that elusive cure and restorative medicine.
As a global patient driven organization the MSGSN realized public awareness importance. We are patients too and in a race for our lives.
Q: Do you have a personal connection to MS?
A: Everyone at the MSGSN has a connection to MS whether an individual is a patient, family member or otherwise. I have personally been living with PPMS active for almost 40 years. ( Ericka )
In the past MS patients were very much at the mercy of this condition. In the past 12 years so very many gains have been made. A patient who has lived with MS for 20, 30, 40 years or more may have accrued much disability. A patient within that diagnosis window of 12 years faces a much more informed landscape, better treatments and much more. That can and does directly correlate to quality of life in many MS patients and families.
The MSGSN is not an entity driving towards being a leader on the global MS landscape… No pun intended. Instead, as patients we united with goals of helping and supporting health care professionals, researchers, patient associations and more.
Q: Do any of the drivers have a personal connection to MS?
A: Yes they do. The founder of the Sim Racing Authority, a driver himself, knows MS well having family members impacted. Some of the other drivers also have people in their lives impacted by MS, and even the Max Speed announcers and commentators have mentioned people they have known. The founder, Bobby Cheney, started the Sim Racing Authority MS Awareness Gen 6 Series because his father was diagnosed with MS in early 2001. His father passed away in December of 2005 of a massive heart attack.
It all makes sense. As noted previously, if the number of patients in the USA is double that previously thought odds are the world is the same or worse yet. Public awareness has now become much more critical if not only in this respect. The number of patients correlates quite directly to research funding, cost within care systems and societies and the impact on populations due to MS.
The MSGSN would like thank Mallinckrodt the manufacturer of Acthar Gel a medication often utilized to reduce inflammation. They came forth with new data about MS prevalence in the US. It rapidly becomes clear that the global unmet needs of the MS population may well be far more enormous than previously thought.
Q: How do you feel auto racing can bring more awareness to MS?
A: We’re just beginning the #RacingMS journey, but we are already seeing results. The simulated racing is simply excellent and often better than television. This is not a video game but instead a highly complex simulator that even career race drivers utilize frequently.
The Sim Racing Authority MS Awareness drivers are skilled drivers with equipment to match. This is serious racing not a video game.
That said, utilizing motorsport opens up hashtags, social media and much more towards spreading public awareness. The fact they can also see amazing Nascar like racing, have favorite drivers, support MS organizations, even buy a driver a cup of coffee and a donut makes for something special.
For the global MS community I ask you realize a few things about these men and women driving in the race simulation, many spend a great deal of hours practicing on the tracks they will run just as career drivers do. They are extremely passionate and competitive about their driving. Yet, here they are spending many hours of their time not only for them to win, but for all of us to win as well- win the race to end MS.
They ask nothing except to make a difference in each of our lives and that we hopefully enjoy watching them race and spread the word.
That’s pretty special and they are bringing it to us persisting the effort. This is not a single event. Most every week these drivers are on the tracks practicing or racing to win the race and the championship.
To all of us at the MSGSN they are all champions! We are both humbled and honored to be in support of them.
We encourage other MS entities to contact us, get involved and for other skilled sim drivers to join the Sim Racing Authority MS Awareness effort. Let change the world together!
Ellie is a 45-year-old woman living in South Carolina. She works as a cashier, but is always dreaming of more — she’s just not always sure of what “more” is. Her favorite hobbies are reading and reading book reviews. Within the first few minutes of meeting her, you’ll realize her nephews, niece, books and cats are her favorite things.
Please watch and share our MS Awareness video.