TRAVERSE CITY — A group of fraternity brothers huddled in Kingsley Baptist Church and let out a cheer before they charged off into the cold.
That Thursday morning pep talk would be the last before 13 men from Grand Valley State University’s Alpha Tau Omega walked the final leg of a 160-mile trek that ended in Traverse City. They set out from Allendale on Feb. 28 to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis.
They’d raised $14,293 of their $15,000 goal for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society by Thursday afternoon. The men averaged 20 miles a day and bunked overnight at churches, an effort that left them “mentally fantastic but physically terrible,” as one fraternity member put it.
“I think I’m walking on pure adrenaline today. I don’t think I’ll feel any pain just because it’s like the last 15 miles,” said junior Calvin Hamilton.
Injuries sidelined a few of the crew along the way: sore Achilles, achy calves, throbbing knees. But when asked if they’d do it again, they nodded in unison.
“If my knees recover,” junior James Zyrek chimed in with a laugh.
Senior Matt Martella leaned on crutches Thursday, the result of what he said was either a micro-fracture or torn ligament. A chance encounter with a gas station clerk who has MS reminded him that his pain is only temporary.
“She said I’ve been diagnosed for nine years. And that right there ... it was just a huge morale-booster,” he said. “MS is something that’s eternal that people have to deal with for the rest of their lives. We’re going to recover after this ... It’s sad to say a lot of people with MS, they’re going to keep declining.”
Sophomore Tyler Dunham said the fundraiser will be an annual event for the fraternity. He guessed that next year more of the fraternity’s 48 members will be willing to give up a sunny spring break vacation for the good cause.
Donations may be made at: main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR?team_id=322224&fr_id=20436&pg=team.