Sitting under a tree to protect herself from the afternoon sun, Valerie Huffman said the picture-perfect day was all her doing.
"I ordered it," she told Dee Myers of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Maryland chapter. The society's walk-a-thon, held in Towson in 80-degree temperatures yesterday, attracted about 1,700 people.
Having obtained pledges payable according to how much of the 9.2-mile course they completed, the walkers helped raise money for multiple sclerosis programs and research.
The third annual Super Cities Walk was also being held in four other Maryland locations yesterday, and in a total of 250 cities in 48 states across the country over the weekend.
Myers, the Maryland chapter's public relations director, estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 people participated statewide.
Organizers in Maryland hoped to bring in a total of $220,000 from the walks in Towson, Annapolis, Columbia, Frederick and Salisbury, Myers said. Last year, about $179,000 was collected in Maryland; more than $16 million across the country.
Sixty percent of the money is kept within the state for programs and services, Myers said. The rest goes toward research of the disease.
The exact amount raised this year won't be known until after May 6, the last day for walkers to turn in their pledge money, Myers said.
Valerie Huffman, 31, is one of 2,700 people in Maryland and 250,000 nationwide who have multiple sclerosis, which attacks the central nervous system.
Huffman, who uses a wheelchair, did not participate in the walk itself. But a van transported her to the event from her residence at an Essex nursing home, where she found 14 people willing to pledge money for her attendance at the event. Signs saying "Sponsor Me" were attached to her wheelchair.
Many walkers said they have a friend or relative with multiple sclerosis.
"I'm walking because my grandmother has MS, so I'm walking for her," said Robert Good of Baltimore.
The Baltimore Chess Team brought 53 walkers because one of its members died two years ago of another disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
"It's the closest charity . . . that we have been able to support because there's not an ALS Society," said Nancy Frenkil, who was with the team.
"We're walking for a good friend of ours," said Victor Frenkil Jr., the team's captain, adding that the team raised $3,000 in pledge money last year.