Despite social distancing, a Verona resident raised nearly $1,200 in donations for Multiple Sclerosis awareness.

Kellie Covert organized a 5K to support her longtime friend, Ann Wilke, who was diagnosed with MS in 2017. Covert and her mom Lee Ann Grahn ran the mini marathon on opposite sides of the street Saturday, May 30.

Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system.

Covert initially planned to run alone in Verona, while her mother ran in solidarity in Green Lake. But in a last-minute decision, her mom came to join her on the streets.

Covert said she didn’t mind the 5K event becoming a duet.

“It was just the two of us, which made it unique. I wanted to do something for Ann,” Covert said. “I learned that my neighbor four doors down also has MS. It was an honor to learn that and eye-opening for me. MS is one of those invisible conditions – you don’t always know which people are living with it.”

Also, in a spur of the moment decision, Covert contacted the fire department, which placed out a fire truck flying a flag, to encourage the pair as they ran past the department three times.

Covert engaged her neighbors in her North Jefferson St. neighborhood, asking them to come out in their yards wearing orange – the official color of MS awareness. She and Wilke ran a route around the neighborhood’s block.

Covert also purchased orange Multiple Sclerosis awareness shirts for neighbors to wear, on which she honored or memorialized a dozen people’s names – family and friends of the 22 people who donated – who also have or had the condition.

She said her neighbors waved signs, and some even brought out cowbells and noisemakers.

“I’m pretty close with my neighbors,” Covert said. “It was awesome to bring people out. It was more fun to have that excitement and encouragement.”

Covert had made her first donation to the Society in March, in honor of Wilke. She said the gesture was “pleasantly received” by her longtime friend. She decided she wanted to do more for her friend, which got her thinking about what she could do virtually as a result of COVID-19.

Using the Society’s website as a donation platform, Covert set a fundraising goal of $1,000. To date, she has received nearly $1,200 in donations from 22 donors. The fundraiser will continue through Sept. 30.

Covert is currently a stay at home mom and said she has Crohn’s disease.

“I don’t understand what people with MS go through, but I understand the struggles of invisible, chronic disease,” she said.

To help raise awareness and money for the event, Covert asked Wilke questions about the disease, which she posted the answers to on Facebook – one a day – in the six days leading up to the event.

Questions included what Wilke has done to deal with it, what medications she takes and if there is a cure.

“I remember asking her to share her personal story,” Covert said. “It was eye opening. ‘It was nice to share that with people. It’s enlightening to know what things she deals with on a daily basis.”

Covert said she plans to participate in MS awareness walks in the Madison area when they return, hopefully starting in 2021.

“I would like to stay involved. It definitely hits home and that gives me a reason to do it again,” she said.

For information, visit nationalmssociety.org/goto/runningforann.

Neal Patten, Community Reporter, can be contacted at neal.patten@wcinet.com.