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Seahawks mascot keeps flying despite Multiple Sclerosis

Ryan Asdourian uses his role as the Seahawks mascot, Blitz, to help fight Multiple Sclerosis. (Ryan Asdourian photo)

Ryan Asdourian has a seemingly endless supply of energy. When you're the Seahawks mascot, Blitz, you pretty much have to. So it was troubling to him when he started to feel strange.

"One day I just woke up. It's that feeling when your foot goes to sleep. I had that feeling in both feet. And then it started trickling up my body to the point where it was up to my rib cage and my whole body was numb for days and I was just tingling. I was like 'Well, something is definitely wrong,'" he said.

Something was wrong. Asdourian was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He's far from alone. The nervous-system disease afflicts more than 12,000 people in the Pacific Northwest, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

"We don't know the cause of MS and we don't have a cure for MS," said Patty Shepherd-Barnes, president of the Greater Northwest Chapter of the NMSC.

"The good news is that since the mid 90s, more and more disease-modifying therapies are coming into existence," said Shepherd-Barnes. "The bad news is that with some people, none of these therapies slow the disease."

For a guy who gets paid to run around in a bird suit and give high fives, Asdourian tries hard not to let MS slow him down.

And he's become a huge activist, raising money through his Team Blitz with everything from pub crawls to the annual MS Walk.

"I go out and talk to support groups, I'll talk to lots of people at the walk," he said.

Asdourian is also part of a support group at Microsoft, where he works.

"So we kind of make sure that everyone has the resources," he said. "That they can talk to people."

Asdourian's relatively lucky. While MS doesn't slow him most days, the disease can be debilitating, causing everything from near paralysis to blindness.

The need for help continues growing. The NMSC is a critical lifeline for people with M.S. and their families and caregivers, providing all types of badly needed support.

They depend on fundraisers like Walk MS April 15 at the University of Washington and across the state.

Asdourian will walk half of it, then magically Blitz will appear to walk the other. But don't expect the bird to say a lot.

"I can make gestures, I've become very good at interpretive dance, so come on out," he joked.

And while MS can be crippling, it doesn't have to be. Asdourian says he hopes he can continue to inspire others.

"I like to have fun," he said. "I love to be constantly active. I don't want to let this slow me down so I'm not going to let it."

That's why Bonneville Seattle, Les Schwab Tire Centers, and PODS of Seattle are proud to honor the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as our charity of the month.


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