Making an Impact
Friendly Wheels, Issue 84
With Amigo owner Cris H.
Between hosting her own support group, volunteering and much more, Cris has always tried to make an impact in the lives of others.
Before she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1984 and before the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, Cris approached businesses about making their stores accessible for people with disabilities. She was determined to make places more accessible for her college roommate who used a wheelchair.
Since then, Cris has not slowed down on her mission to make a difference in other people’s lives. Cris spent years volunteering with the National MS Society to help people recently diagnosed with MS through the Peer Support Hotline.
Professionals handled most calls, but volunteers were also available in case someone wanted to speak to another person with MS. Many callers asked for recommendations, so volunteers had resources available with recommended doctors and support groups from all over the United States.
“When the person on the other line asked to speak with someone with MS, it was because they wanted to hear from somebody who has been in their shoes,” Cris said.
The phone calls could be intense if the person on the other line was upset, but Cris talked for as long as they needed to help them cope with their diagnosis.
“The biggest thing you can tell someone with MS is that they are not alone and there is hope,” Cris said.
Along with volunteering for the Peer Support Hotline, Cris also ran her own monthly peer support group.
At every meeting, Cris encouraged members to ask questions and get answers from her or others in the group. Cris would tell group members, “If you don’t leave here feeling better than when you walked in, tell me what I can do to help.”
Cris’s peer support group was usually a small gathering of five to 10 people, but the close network supported each other through hard times. Cris is passionate about helping others through the difficult emotions of an MS diagnosis. The hardest thing for many people to learn is to allow others to help.
“Other people want to help and enjoy it,” Cris said. “So let them get enjoyment out of helping you and be appreciative of their support.”
Click here to find a local MS support group and find out about events in your community!