Chi Omega to hold walk for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy


by Lindsay Hurni, Features Editor
November 08, 2002

Sophomore Chi Omega member Ashley Mahoney is the reason orange ribbons may soon be popping up across the nation. And she's also the reason her sorority has a new focus of its philanthropy.
Mahoney's presence will be a symbol of strength when she and her sorority kick off the first ever "A Walk to Remember," which is a walk to "help put out the flame and end the pain" on Saturday. Because of Mahoney, the orange ribbon is now the official color for the cure.

Senior Lindsay Gillilan, Chi Omega community service director, said Saturday's walk will help raise money for a cure for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy -- an incurable neurological disease, with donations going to RSDA, an organization dedicated to finding a cure.

"If it's caught early enough, people do have a chance of going in to remission," Gillilan said. "There's so little known that doctors misdiagnose."

Gillilan said 19-year-old Mahoney's life changed forever on Jan. 15 when she began to experience excruciating pain. After being misdiagnosed several times, the doctors diagnosed the Ball State theater major with RSD.

"It's basically a burning fire sensation that never goes away," Gillilan said.

"With lightning strikes," Mahoney added.

Gillilan said the disease usually occurs in those 40 years old and older and usually is onset by an injury. Mahoney had no signs.

Now, a mere 10 months later, the disease has taken over the entire right side of Mahoney's body. Doctors completed a spinal cord stimulator and sympathetic nerve block but both were taken out the next day. After visiting the Mayo Clinic -- U.S. News and World Report's No. 2 ranking hospital -- Mahoney returned to her home in Marietta, Ga. for the summer. After being told she'd never walk again, she returned to Ball State despite doctor's orders.

While Mahoney is under constant watch and medication to control body tremors, Gillilan said Mahoney can never have another surgery due to the threat of RSD spreading throughout the rest of her body.

With a cure in mind, Gillilan and Mahoney decided to raise awareness by organizing the walk by themselves. Hand-made posters across campus symbolize Mahoney's strength and dedication to the cause.

"She's doing this in her mind to help others," Gillian said. "We basically want to help fight the cause and find a cure...What happened to Ashley, it hit home...it was something we could all relate to."

Gillilan said Mahoney came up with the walk's theme and has helped spread the word across campus. Both have contributed endless hours speaking to other greek and nongreek organizations to get the campus involved. Contributions have already started flooding in.

Saturday's walk will begin at LaFollette Field with registration beginning at 10 a.m. The walk starts at 10:30 a.m. and will end at North Quad with WLBC radio station deejaying.

The walk is open to the public and is $5 to participate. Donations may be mailed to Chi Omega, Show Box 88, Student Center, Muncie, Ind. 47306.

"For anyone who comes to this, they'll see how our goal is to not put pitty on Ashley and see her independence," Gillilan said. "When we go speak with people their reaction afterwards is people rethinking how they live their lives. She's lived her life, takes each day and loves each day."

Will Ashley be there?

"Hell yeah, I'll be there," she says from the background.


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