After Zach Mielke was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he decided to do something to create awareness about the disease.
The result was Walk With Strength, and the fifth annual walk will be held on Saturday, April 26, in Weyauwega.
“Each year, we have about 200 walkers. That’s been pretty steady,” he said. “We have raised over $28,000 in the last four years. That’s pretty good for a small, little town.”
It is almost five years ago that Mielke was diagnosed with MS.
He was about two months away from beginning his senior year at Weyauwega-Fremont High School when he received the diagnosis.
Testing began that summer when he woke up one morning with lips that felt numb. Later that same day, the left side of his face felt the same.
His walking became more crooked.
Mielke had an MRI of his brain and additional tests before learning he had MS.
He began taking a medication to help him sleep and another for pain when necessary. He also began injecting himself daily with a medication they hoped would slow the progression of the disease.
For a little more than a year, he has been on a new medication, one of the first oral medications for MS and one Mielke says is working pretty well for him.
“I noticed a difference. I don’t get any side effects from it. All the other ones were shots. I was on three different kinds,” he said.
During the last year, Mielke has noticed a little decline in his speech.
“My brain is telling me to do it, but it won’t happen,” he said. “I’ve noticed my strength is going a little bit. I’m getting tired. I always feel tired, especially working all day and then going home and wanting to do things.”
The 22 year old lives with his parents, Steve and Sara Mielke, in rural Weyauwega.
He works full time at A&E Jewelers, in Appleton, while also seeking an associate degree in business management at Fox Valley Technical College.
He will graduate in December and will continue to work at A&E Jewelers, hoping to become an account representative in the future.
This year’s Walk With Strength will include two new things – a basket raffle and a brat fry.
“Each year, I try to get ideas that people want to do,” Mielke said.
The basket raffle was the idea of someone who participated in last year’s walk.
About 25 baskets have been put together with private donations. The basket raffle will be held the day of the event. The winners will be notified after the walk.
The brat fry will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at W-F High School.
“Everything has been donated for that,” Mielke said. “So, if people can’t walk, they stop and get a brat or look at the raffle.”
The 5K walk will begin at the high school at 10 a.m., with the route taking walkers around the city limits.
The cost is $20 for adults and $15 for those age 3 to 12, regardless if registration takes place ahead of time or on the day of the event.
Those who want to preregister may do so at www.walkwithstrength.webs.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and listing the names of those who will be walking.
This year’s fundraising goal is $9,000, Mielke said.
All proceeds will benefit the Wisconsin Chapter of the National MS Society, including for prescription assistance, a scholarhsip fund and to help people purchase wheelchairs and scooters or build wheelchair ramps.
“The first year I was diagnosed with MS, I received a scholarship from MS,” Mielke said.
He is now representing Walk with Strength on the NMSS Wisconsin Chapter’s Scholarship Committee.
“Every year, when it comes around, I keep surprising myself on the support throughout the year,” Mielke said. “Local businesses do things throughout the year to support it. It’s great to see how their commitment gets bigger. The name “Walk With Strength” is getting known. People come up to me throughout the year. I do get amazed every year on the support we have.”
The reason why he started the event and chose to call it Walk With Strength is “because Ms really does take people’s strength away. To do something as simple as walking can be a struggle,” he said. “Every year, someone who is there for the first time tells me it’s a fun atmosphere. It’s all about being aware.”