The MS Alliance of Virginia (MSAV) was created by Suzanne Oconnell in November 2015 as a non-profit corporation. Most of its initial board, of her individual choosing, is made up of people who have multiple sclerosis, people who live and breathe the disease in all its variations. It was critically important to Suzanne that an organization be formed that could rapidly meet the needs of southwest, rural Virginia, then once established, expand to cover the rest of the state.
At its core, the MSAV mission is to provide education, programming and services not only to people living with MS, but to their caregivers, their families and those in the community who are affected by the disease. Being a veteran herself, Suzanne ensured that our mission encompassed veterans as well as young people being diagnosed, and we reach out to first responders and any of our community organizations that we can educate on what to expect from people who have this disease.
We guide and back support groups, providing speakers, leadership, guidance and additional upbeat programming to supplement their monthly meetings. Under Suzanne’s leadership, the number of support groups has grown from one to four, the mailing list has ballooned, and we have added a medical advisor to our MSAV Board. We expanded our programming to include an MS Fashion Show, a come out of the doldrums Snow Ball, a Spring Rejuvenation Weekend, and a week-long Patient Education Conference.
We acquired our first office space in Roanoke, VA in December 2017 to provide more effective advocacy for the MS Community. Our wish is that no one else get diagnosed, but as long as diagnoses continue, we will continue our work tirelessly, empowering those affected with MS to be the best that they can be.