Nonprofit Spotlight: National Multiple Sclerosis Society | Atmos Energy

Nonprofit Spotlight: National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Nonprofit Spotlight
March 1, 2021

The National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society brings the MS movement together—and turns power and passion into real results. When the Society was founded 75 years ago, MS was neglected and poorly understood. What began as one woman's vision and commitment is now a nationwide organization leading the global charge to create a world free of MS. 

When Sylvia Lawry's brother, Bernard, began experiencing visual and balance problems in 1945, she and her sister Alice placed a classified advertisement in The New York Times: "Multiple sclerosis. Will anyone recovered from it please communicate with patient." The sisters received 54 replies from people as desperate as they were. Most asked to be informed if the two heard anything promising. "I was looking for medical clues that might have helped my brother," Ms. Lawry said in an interview with The New York Post in 1959. "But when the responses started to snowball and come from all over the country, I decided to give up the law and let my creative energies spill over into helping people with MS." 

Sylvia realized the need for an organized effort to encourage and finance research into the cause, treatment, and cure of multiple sclerosis. On March 11, 1946, Ms. Lawry, a young woman without a scientific background, gathered 20 of the nation's most prominent research scientists and medical experts and founded what would become the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Her passion and perseverance launched a movement that has led to more breakthroughs than the world has seen for any other neurological disease. 

MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms vary from person to person and range from numbness or tingling to walking difficulties, fatigue, dizziness, pain, depression, blindness, and paralysis. 

A recent study led by the National MS Society estimates that nearly 1 million people are living with MS in the United States; twice as many as previously thought.  Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. 

The National MS Society funds cutting edge research, drives change through advocacy, facilitates professional education, collaborates with MS organizations around the world, and provides services designed to help people with MS and their families move their lives forward.  The Society is also one of 48 sister Societies forming the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation also founded by Sylvia Lawry, who died at age 86 in 2001. 

Through its comprehensive, nationwide network of services, the Society is focused on helping those affected by MS connect to the people, information, and resources needed to live their best lives through:  

  • Partnerships with the healthcare community to promote access to comprehensive, high quality healthcare. Information about MS and the Society’s services are available 24 hours a day by calling (800) 344-4867.  
  • The help of approximately 900 professional staff in addition to more than 500,000 volunteers who carry out the Society’s daily operations.  
  • Support from the MS community, including people affected by MS, their friends and family, corporate partners, and the public at large.  
  • Investing more than $1 billion since its founding in 1946 to advance MS research and is recognized as the catalyst for all major advancements in MS. 
  • Fundraising events that include Bike MS, Walk MS, and Challenge Walk MS. 

Bike MS is the largest fundraising bike series in the world and each year, nearly 75,000 cyclists and more than 6,000 teams ride together to change the world for people with MS.  Since 2008, the Atmos Energy Dallas cycling team has brought in more than $235,000 to the National Society of MS, Texas through Bike MS. Although hundreds of bicyclists did not line up for the annual bike ride in 2020, employee participants still managed to ride on their own and raise more than $10,000 for multiple sclerosis research.    

“The entire National MS Society community is beyond humbled by Atmos Energy’s continued support of our mission to end MS and support those affected by multiple sclerosis,” said Linda Bates, National MS Society South Central president. “This visionary support from Atmos Energy fuels the innovative MS research that we invest in and the life changing programs that empower people with MS to live their best lives, which is more critical today than ever before.”   

In addition to participating in the ride and prior to COVID-19, Atmos Energy team members volunteered at Bike MS to cook meals, hand out ice cold snacks at rest stops, encourage cyclist on the route, and support all aspects of the bike ride for thousands of riders.  To honor this beloved partnership, the Society named Atmos Energy Corporate Partner of the Year in 2019 and bestowed upon it the Covid Crusher Award in 2020.  

Through the backing of major funding partners including Atmos Energy, the National MS Society has transformed what it means to live with MS and we’ve achieved more breakthroughs for MS than the world has seen for any other neurological disease,” added Ms. Bates.  We bring together the world’s resources to find treatments, solutions, and cures. The National MS Society has paved the way for nearly all of the MS treatment options available today—none of which existed just 30 years ago. We are proud to have achieved more research breakthroughs in the past five years than in the 70 previous. 

Ms. Bates concluded, “The continued commitment of the National MS Society’s strong community of supporters – including corporate partners like Atmos Energy — is vital to maintain MS research momentum, an effort that results in impact worldwide.” 

To support research for a cure and services for people affected by MS, please visit https://www.nationalmssociety.org/.   

To support the Atmos Energy 2021 Bike MS team, please visit https://mssociety.donordrive.com/team/Atmos2021