Mykal Peterson, 15, of Bethalto, right, volunteers his time for the Gateway Chapter of the National MS Society whenever possible. Peterson is pictured here after riding his bike 40 miles during the Bike MS event in Columbia, Mo.
To better understand the kind of endurance 15-year-old Mykal Peterson has, try walking a mile in his shoes — or 50.
Peterson, of Bethalto, will be a freshman at Civic Memorial High School this fall. And as he wrapped up his eighth-grade year, he made the decision to do something worthwhile with his time and test his limits.
So for three days, he walked.
From May 30 to June 1, Peterson participated in the Multiple Sclerosis 50-mile Challenge Walk, traveling around the St. Louis area despite one weighing concern — the walking boot Peterson had on his leg after injuring his ankle a few weeks prior.
“It was a challenge, but I wasn’t going to let my injury stop me,” Peterson said.
Multiple sclerosis stops people from moving, usually striking in adults between age 20 and 50. It’s an unpredictable, often disabling central nervous system disease that interrupts the flow of information within the brain and body.
Peterson said he has several older friends who suffer from MS, and in their honor, he has done all he can to champion their cause.
During the 2012 and 2013 event, Mykal and his mother, Jennifer Peterson, began to volunteer at the MS Challenge by working at the rest stops and cheering on the walkers.
During this year’s Challenge Walk, Peterson teamed up with the Sole Sisters and Misters team, and with the 11 others on the team, he was able to raise more than $16,000 for the Gateway Chapter of the National MS Society.
Chapter President Rebecca Fehlig said there were 140 walkers in this year’s event, even several with MS. She added that so far, the 2014 Challenge Walk has raised more than $382,000, but with funds still coming in to help fund the event in the future, the chapter’s financial goals get closer and closer.
The Gateway Chapter’s goal in fund-raising for the event is $525,000, all of which will go to the chapter and the 6,800 people living with multiple sclerosis in the chapter’s 90-county region throughout eastern Missouri and southwestern Illinois.
“Our key objectives are to support cutting-edge MS research in hopes of finding a cure, as well as sponsoring programs and services for people affected in our area,” Fehlig said. “Our programs and services are for a variety of age groups, hosting everything from summer camps to family vacations.”