Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Today, in London, the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Paralympic Games are underway with the lighting of the Paralympic Flame witnessed by delegations from around the world. For the next 11 days, 4,280 Paralympic athletes from around the world—including an American athlete living with MS—will compete in 21 sports to vie for more than 500 gold metals.

The U.S. Delegation is led by U.S. Army General Martin E. Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The other members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation are the Honorable Louis B. Susman, Ambassador of the United States to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the Honorable Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; Mr. Kareem A. Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, The White House; and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic medalists Ms. Jean Driscoll, Ms. Sharon Hedrick, and Mr. Larry T. Hughes.

Among the Paralympic Equestrian riders from 26 nations is American rider Donna Ponessa—accomplished athlete and MS Activist who was diagnosed with MS more than 25 years ago. Donna, who is paralyzed from the chest down and relies on a ventilator to breathe, and her horse Western Rose (aka “Rosie”) are scheduled to compete in multiple events beginning August 30th. To follow Donna’s event schedule and progress through the competition, click here to see her profile on the Paralympics website!
MS Activist and Paralympic Athlete Donna Ponessa

“To say that it has been a challenge to compete at this level with my MS is an understatement,” Donna says. “Yes, the MS does complicate things and can make things so much more difficult.  While I refuse to let it define my life, it is an integral part of it and I have to deal with it.  Despite it, I remain 100% committed to living life to its fullest and on my terms.”
Donna has been active in her local Society Chapter for 10 years. She works tirelessly for disability rights, while working for an independent living center, and volunteering for the National MS Society. Debby Bennett, VP of Programs and Services for the NYC-Southern New York Chapter, says that as an activist, Donna “has developed strong relationships with legislators; lobbying in the state Capitol, providing testimony at hearings and giving voice to people who need one.”
Congratulations and good luck to Donna, the rest of the U.S. Paralympic Team, and all of the Paralympic Athletes! Let the games begin!

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