When Gloria Greer founded ACT for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1999 along with friends, Peggy Cravens and the late Jackie Lee Houston after her daughter Norma was diagnosed with MS, she had no idea the far-reaching impact they would have on the lives of those living with MS in the Coachella Valley. Her passion continues to be reflected today in the organization’s mission statement: Helping Clients Live Stronger Longer.
By the summer of 2000, ACT for MS offered the first strength training program in the Coachella Valley for people diagnosed with MS. ACT for MS supervised student trainers from the College’s Department of Adaptive Physical Education who worked with ACT for MS clients.
Two years later, ACT for MS began offering an assistance program of help with electric bills and air conditioner servicing during the hottest summer months, as many clients are living at or below the poverty level, and have difficulty coping with high summer temperatures. In 2004, speaker/support luncheons for those with MS and their caregivers were initiated.
In the next several years, the strength training program would grow to a point of needing three different training facilities. Reflexology and therapeutic massage/stretching were also added to the list of program offerings. Massage, in particular, is a great deal of help to those with mobility issues because it manipulates stiff muscles and improves circulation.
The organization also moved from its 200 square foot office to a larger space in the Palm Desert Civic Center Campus in 2008, and began developing plans for a Client Resource Center. That same year, chair yoga was offered free of charge to all clients and their relative, partner or caregiver.
In 2009,The Berger Center provided a grant to fund the Client Resource Center, equipping it with technology and information resources not otherwise available to clients. That same year, The Auen Foundation provided a grant to enhance strength training to expand it to provide specific training for older clients.
Between 2009 and 2016, ACT for MS received several more grants to continue growing the list of program offerings, including Aquatic Therapy, all of which build strength, increase flexibility and mobility, and lowers pain.
Some of the success of these programs was due to husband- and-wife board members, Richard and Lynn DiSantis. Lynn was not only a board member, but a client as well, and when she passed away in 2012, ACT for MS renamed the strength training program to the Lynn DeSantis Therapy Program. Richard credits the program with extending his wife’s life by at least five years.
By 2016, ACT for MS had grown to serving over 100 clients, and moved from being a volunteer and board-operated organization to hiring its first executive director.
Since 1999, ACT for MS has distributed over $3,000,000 in much needed support for Coachella Valley residents living with MS.