“The white board in the office conference room became slightly blurry. By the end of the meeting it was very much a blur. That night the TV was nothing more than the fuzzy grey and white screen you see when you unplug the cable wire. My vision was gone in one eye. Welcome to Multiple Sclerosis.
My speech started to slur, first ever so slightly but personally noticeable. Quickly it got worse and numbness appeared in one side of my face. I felt odd sensations and a look in the mirror told me that my face was paralyzed on one side. Welcome to Multiple Sclerosis.” Kevin was 31 years old in 2009. It was supposed to be some of the best times of his life. He and his wife had a brand new house, their first child was on the way and he was still competitively active in sports.
That is how the story of Kevin Salerno begins. Please read it in its entirety here.
This Examiner has written many articles about Multiple Sclerosis. This is a bit different. It is about the journey of two best friends who are fighting every day to raise money to find a cure for MS by forming an organization which helps many and whose goal is to support those with MS.
Childhood friends and founders Kevin Salerno and Aaron DiCaprio understand the difficulties of raising money. While growing up they belonged to many local sports teams and organizations and felt the constant push to raise money through means such as selling candy, wrapping paper or discount cards - even crates of grapefruit.
Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2009, Kevin hoped to find a means to help others raise money for their causes while simultaneously raising money for MS - SupportLocalStuff was born! SupportLocalStuff donates a portion of its proceeds to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and earmarks the contributions for research.
Kevin and Aaron hope that all of our contributions can help in making a better life for those suffering from MS with the goal that one day it will help lead to a cure for the disease.
I had the opportunity to interview Kevin who has extensive software development background with over 15 years in the field designing and building enterprise applications and systems.
What is it like living with MS and how does it relate to what you and Aaron are doing?
I was diagnosed in 2009 and had just bought my first home and my first child was on the way, so yes it was a shock, but I immediately thought, OK what can I do? And most definitely having been diagnosed is what drove both myself and Aaron to form our organization SupportLocalStuff.
Aaron and I have been best friends since childhood and we played sports together throughout high school and we were always involved in fundraising activities. We kept in contact over the years and we both had business venture ideas that focused around helping others and fundraising.
So when I was diagnosed with MS we both collectively brainstormed on how we could support finding a cure for MS while also building an organization that allowed us to blend our ideas and build a platform that provided a mechanism for individuals, groups, or organizations to raise money for any cause but in the process raise money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis.
And with the emergence of “crowdfunding” our idea became a reality, so it’s quite rewarding as we are helping so many do fundraising a childhood dream we made a reality, but also helping to provide monetary support to MS a personal crusade for me personally. So in an ironic way my diagnosis of MS made me take action to start an organization to make some small difference in the fight against MS.
Since being diagnosed with MS, yes my life is challenging, but I am someone who always has a “half glass full philosophy” and I actually consider myself lucky in that I am healthy right now for all intent and purposes, I have a full time job as a software engineer and I take each day as it comes, and go to sleep at night thankful for each day and knowing I am using my “challenge” in life to help others.
And I am determined to not let MS define me or my life but use my circumstances to make a difference any way I can.
What have you accomplished with Support Local Stuff that you are proud of?
Even in the short time SupportLocalStuff has been around we are very proud of what we have done to raise awareness and provide monetary support to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society but more importantly what we have done to help others raise money for the causes near and dear to people and their hearts.
We have helped raise people raise money for a wheel chair accessible van, a day camp for children with heart defects, to a team who needed money to travel to college hockey championships their first in the school’s history, helping a family with funeral expenses and supporting a fundraiser for a blindness condition.
What is most important for our readers to take away from this article?
We hope that we are not only raising awareness for Multiple Sclerosis but we hope our story makes people get involved andpay it forward for causes near and dear to their heart. And we hope our platform provides a mechanism to help many individuals, groups, and organizations do just that. Every person can make a difference and no matter how small you believe it may be, our goal is to do what we can and to unite communities with a common goal of “helping each other.”
Additionally, I am fortunate to have a great support of friends and family, Aaron my best friend has embraced our organization as if it’s his own and for that I am blessed by his friendship, support and kindness, so my blessings are many and I am grateful.