Playa del Rey resident Jonathan Strum has seen firsthand the effects that multiple sclerosis can have on an individual.
Strum, 51, has seen how the disease has made everyday activities a major challenge for his wife of 14 years, Jeanne, who has been affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) for the past nine years.
Jeanne Strum, a former avid hiker and cyclist who used to ride 40 miles a day, now has difficulty getting out of bed without assistance.
“Unfortunately she has a very progressive case, so I’ve seen her encounter very significant disabilities along the way,” said Jonathan Strum, who was recently named the branch manager of the Boardwalk Realty office in Brentwood.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system. National Multiple Sclerosis Society officials say the disease, which is unpredictable and often disabling, affects more than 400,000 people in the U.S.
Witnessing how the disease can dramatically change the way people live their lives, Strum said he decided to take part in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Walks to help those who are affected by the disease.
“I can see what it can do to a person’s life and I can’t help but be involved,” Strum said.
Strum has participated in MS Walks the past two years to help raise money and awareness for the disease.
He recently finished the 5K MS Walk of Los Angeles, along with 25 Boardwalk Realty coworkers on “The Boardwalkers” team, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Exposition Park Sunday, April 9th.
Not only was Strum one of the more than 5,000 participants of the walk, but he was chosen by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Southern California Chapter as the event’s “Most Inspirational Walker.”
Marni Deckter, Southern California Chapter director of communications, said the MS Society invited nominations of the Walk participants to receive the “Most Inspirational Walker” award, which is given to “someone who is making a difference in the community.”
“It’s the first year we’ve initiated this award and it’s because every year, walkers tell us the reasons they’re walking is because of someone else,” Deckter said.
Strum was nominated for the inspirational walker award by an anonymous co-worker at Boardwalk Realty, who wrote, “Jon’s wife, Jeanne, has MS and Jon takes great care of her. Jeanne can no longer walk or do things unassisted, yet Jon can somehow keep everything together.
“As you can tell, I highly respect and admire Jon for his strength, stamina and courage.”
Strum was presented the award by Rachel Boesing of NBC 4 Los Angeles at the opening ceremonies of the Los Angeles MS Walk.
“I was very surprised and extremely humbled,” Strum said of the award.
Receiving the award meant a “great deal” to Strum, who said the honor shows him that others recognize that he is trying to do the best job he can each day.
“For someone else to recognize you for that, it tells you that you’ve been getting it right,” he said.
But while Strum was the one who received the inspirational walker award, he said the honor is as much for Jeanne as it is for him.
“I always thought she was the engine behind any inspiration people see in me,” he said.
In the nine years since Jeanne was diagnosed with MS, nearly every part of her life has been impacted, Strum said. Jeanne has had to “readjust across the board,” but Strum said he is continuously amazed at her attitude and how she fights the disease every day.
Strum said his main job as Jeanne’s husband is to take care of her by making her life “as easy as possible,” but he also acts as a patient advocate on her behalf to try to raise awareness about the disease.
Jeanne has been very supportive of the work being done, including Jonathan’s involvement in the MS Walks, Strum said.
The employees at Boardwalk Realty have also joined in support of Strum’s efforts and their participation in the MS Walk April 9th, helped “The Boardwalkers” team exceed its fundraising goal of $8,000, Strum said.
“It reminded us that no one has to face the disease alone,” Strum said of the Walk. “The support has just been phenomenal.”
Strum plans to continue entering MS Walks and will next aim for a fundraising goal of $10,000 at next year’s Los Angeles walk.
He also wants to continue his role as an advocate on behalf of his wife and others affected by MS, and he hopes for the day when they can “pop the cork on the champagne” because a cure has been found.