Kelli McDonald did not spend her Fourth of July watching fireworks. Instead, she found herself halfway through a 178-mile trek from Dubuque, Iowa, to Milwaukee. That morning, she found herself running along the roads in Monona and the Town of Cottage Grove.

“I had just crossed the stage of my eighth-grade graduation with the rest of my class when my mom (Margret Kubic) passed out in the bleachers of the gym,” McDonald wrote on her MS Run the US webpage. “The heat is what triggered her first MS relapse, and for the next 15 years or more, we would watch this disease take her on a wild roller coaster of relapses.”

The MS Run the US is a 3,260-mile relay across the United States to raise money in the battle against multiple sclerosis (MS). Each runner runs an average 160 miles in six days and commits to raising $10,000 for the cause.

McDonald, of Joliet, Illinois, ran seven days to complete her relay segment.

“I look back at everything my mom endured while fighting this disease and am awestruck with her ability to keep our lives completely normal,” McDonald said. “My mom is now secondary progressive, and while that may sound like a good thing, it really isn’t. My mom doesn’t have the number or severity of relapses she had before. Her MS is just doing its thing a little bit quieter, that’s all.”

A wife and mother of three children, McDonald is a permanent substitute teacher for the Plainfield Consolidated School District 202 in Plainfield, Illinois.

“A titanium rod keeps my mom’s vital organs from being crushed due to the muscle spasms she has thanks to MS,” McDonald said. “Those spasms took its toll on her spine and not only curved her spine but also twisted it, and it happened within a year.”

Kubic has also suffered from drop foot, a weakness in the foot that then does not allow a person to be able to lift the front of their foot thereby making tripping easier. She was also diagnosed with optic neurosis; MS damaged her optic nerve and has affected her color vision.

This was McDonald’s sixth year participating in the relay, and during that time, she has logged 750 miles and raised close to $50,000.

“Five years into the relay and I don’t see myself stopping,” she said. “The training is hard, but the fundraising is definitely harder.”

The relay, which originated in Wisconsin, begins each year in April in Santa Monica, California, and concludes in August in New York.

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