WHEN DONNA Goonan attended the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Maryland chapter volunteer awards ceremony in October, the last thing she expected was to hear her name announced as MS Family of the Year.
"I was just very surprised," Goonan said, admitting she didn't pay much attention to the listing of the winner's accomplishments because she figured someone else had won. "I just assumed that all families did that."
But, according to society employees in Hunt Valley, the Goonan family's dedication to the organization, and each other, is far from ordinary.
Ever since Goonan was diagnosed with the disease in June 1989, she has volunteered a great deal of time and energy to the organization.
"I started volunteering because I needed to be doing something," Goonan said, adding she retired from her 19-year position as an executive Tupperware manager when it became too difficult to juggle the disease and her job.
"The only reason I gave it up was that I started stumbling in people's homes," she said. "I only wanted to do the best job. It's a great loss when you have to give up things like that."
After retiring, Goonan offered to assist Lynn Carter, the Carroll County self-help group facilitator, with running meetings and other organizational duties. From there, she became involved with the state office, dedicating two to three mornings a week to answering phones, compiling mailings and anything else that needs to be done.
In addition, she serves as a peer counselor offering information and support to individuals who discover they have the disease.
Finally, the society's annual MS walk -- held April 8 at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster -- has become a family affair. Goonan and her mother work at the registration table and serve lunches, while her husband, sons and other relatives walk in the event.
"Because she had such an executive position, it surprises me that nothing is too menial for her to do," said Dee Myers, the society's director of communications.
But for Goonan, the duties are her way of showing appreciation.
"I feel like they're really getting back what they give us," she said. "We can call at any time and they're there. They do so much for us that I want to give back."
Goonan spearheaded an effort this year to encourage other MS patients to help out at the annual walk in Westminster.
"I feel that they should help and participate, if they can," she said. "It's for us why shouldn't we work, too?"
For more information about MS or to obtain sponsor sheets for the walk, call the Maryland chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at 800-FIGHT- MS.
An invisible dragon
Faced with a depressed princess in a kingdom of happy people, her father decides to do whatever it takes to make her smile again.
See what desperate action he takes in "The Invisible Dragon," a children's play being performed by the Carroll Players throughout early April.
The play, which was written by Patricia Clapp and is being directed by Rosanna Bryson, is suitable for all ages. However, organizers say children ages 4 to 6 have been the most enthusiastic during previous performances.
Admission is free for all performances, which will take place at 1 p.m. April 8 at the Longwell Municipal Building; 3 p.m. April 9 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building on Poole Road; and 7 p.m. April 13 at the Westminster branch of Carroll County Public Library on Main Street.
Registration is required at the April 13 performance.
Information: Carroll Players, 410-876-2220 or 410-848-1295.
Come hear a few of the county's ghostly legends as the Carroll County Public Library celebrates National Library Week with a ghost walk from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. April 14.
The tour, which begins with a slide show at Westminster branch library on Main Street, will include tales from the Old Jail, Ascension Episcopal Church and Shellman House.
Participants will walk to each site by candlelight and be met by guest storytellers who will recount the legend of each site. The evening, which will include stories about the Opera House ghost and Legh Masters, will end with a reception and light refreshments at the Westminster Inn on Center Street.
Storytellers for the evening expected to be Audrey and Joseph Cimino, Dwight Dingle, Lynn Dalrymple, Joanne Hay and Lou Scharon.
Proceeds will benefit the Carroll County Public Library Endowment Fund. Tickets are $25 each, and participants may count $15 of that as a tax-deductible donation to the library.
Amy L. Miller's Central neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.