By Chelsea Martin
Lending a helping hand is what humanity exists and thrives upon. There are countless individuals donating their time to creating a better world for future generations. Muscular Dystrophy Association is just one of the many non-profit organizations fighting for a cure and a better tomorrow through endless awareness, fundraising and research. Twenty six-year Tempe resident Bonnie Guzelf has been involved with MDA for several years, and has been its Arizona Adult Ambassador for the past two years after having been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in 1999. Through the ups and downs, Guzelf has remained sturdy in her position, as well as in her goal to raise awareness for the MDA Foundation and all 44 neuromuscular diseases that are covered under the MDA umbrella. “They do a lot of really good things,” said Guzelf. “They get absolutely no federal funding, and all of the money they receive is raised through their events and a team of full-time fundraisers—it’s incredible,” she said. “It’s such a good cause, but (many) people don’t really know about all the diseases.” There are only 2,000 families in Arizona that are affected by the diseases covered under the MDA designation. That number puts muscular dystrophy just low enough to fall short on people’s radar. The lack of publicity—and thus lesser priority— has stuck with Guzelf, inspiring her every day to do something to raise awareness. She never stops telling her story. “It’s what I like to do,” Guzelf said. “I get out there to share my story and (the stories of) others, to educate the community and ask for donations. People give what they can, and what’s in their heart, it’s a wonderful thing.” As little as $30 can pay for a flu shot, while as much as $800 can pay for a week at an MDA summer camp for one child. Whatever funds are raised benefit a wide span of recipients and research, she said. Guzelf is participating in the 14th annual MDA Muscle Walk this year and is looking for friends to participate on her team, Princess Bonnie. The walk will be on Saturday, March 22, at Tempe Town Lake. Registration begins at 7. This is Guzelf’s fourth year completing the challenge, setting this year’s goal at $1,000. “Anyone can come out to the walk,” Guzelf said. “Right now it’s just my husband and I, but we would love to have neighbors or friends in the community with us on my team. The walk is a great time and it truly warms my heart.” Guzelf spends her time working with MDA through events and fundraising. She blogs regularly, spends time with her husband and caregiver Phil, and supports local businesses in her neighborhood. Her support is returned, she says, and Guzelf has become an inspiration to those who surround her. “I just want people to know that (despite dealing with a disabling disease) you can still do things,” Guzelf. “You have to find different ways of doing them, but don’t let it ever stop you. “You could sit in a corner and cry—and believe me, for the first year I did—but then I realized I couldn’t keep doing that. You can’t let it stop you. You’d end up just sitting in a chair for the rest of your life, and I just can’t do that.” “I’ve learned to never take no for an answer.” The upcoming MDA walk promises again to be a day of working alongside great people for a great cause, along with delicious food and lively entertainment, Guzelf says. “When people ask me personally why I walk, I tell them it’s to bring awareness to the fact that it not only helps children, it also helps adults like me, who have ALS. It helps research for possible treatments and a future cure,” Guzelf said. “That’s why I walk. I walk for the people who can’t. Anything I can do to help them, I think it’s a good thing. It gives me something meaningful in my life, and I am grateful for everything.” Anyone is free to join Guzelf’s team for the walk or send a donation through her name up until March 22. For more information visit www.mda.org and find Princess Bonnie’s team link or contact her at 480-838-1184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.