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Gracefully becoming aware of MSA

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Ashley Sourapas, a senior communications major, welcomed Windy Petrick and daughters, Malayna and Hallie Mee Petrick, to a Saving Grace fundraising event on March 30 at Chase’s Wine Bar and Beer in Downtown La Verne. Saving Grace raises money to spread awareness of and give support to those who are affected by multiple system atrophy. / photo by Debora Escobar

Karo Chakhlasyan
Staff Writer

Family, friends, and community members gathered Friday at Chase’s Wine Bar and Beer in La Verne for “Cocktails for a Cause,” an event to raise money and awareness for multiple system atrophy research.

MSA is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder and affects the autonomic nervous system and movement.

There is currently no known cure.

The illness is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease and affects men and women primarily in their 50s.

The event was brought together by Saving Grace, a campaign created by senior public affairs major Ashley Sourapas, to raise awareness of MSA.

Sourapas’ grandmother, Grace Sourapas, has been fighting MSA for more than six years and inspired the Saving Grace campaign.

As senior projects were looming, Sourapas knew she wanted to create awareness for the disease.

“Might as well do something where my heart’s at,” Sourapas said.

Saving Grace was designed for people who have been affected by MSA so they can talk among themselves about their experiences with the disease.

“I know when my grandmother was first diagnosed we felt very lost and no one knew where to turn because no one really knew what it really was or how to go about it,” Sourapas said.

For the fundraising event, Chase’s was decorated with the color purple, which represents MSA awareness.

A purple velvet cloth covered a table that had pamphlets about MSA, a news article about Saving Grave and a proclamation from the city of La Verne naming the month of March as MSA Awareness Month.

Each table at the event had handouts and flyers about MSA, as well as purple flowers and balloons.

“I thought it turned out amazing, Ashley went above and beyond like she always does,” Whitney Torgerson, a La Verne resident, said.

Although there were no difficulties setting up the event, Sourapas was diligent about making sure friends, family and MSA supporters were aware of her event.

“I just had to keep going at it, keep sending reminders to everyone,” Sourapas said. “Nothing really came easily, that’s for sure. It was after numerous attempts everything became easier.”

As the night progressed Chase’s became crowded and the kitchen had to shut down due the large crowd.

“We underanticipated the fuel under the fire, so to speak,” Chase’s general manager Michael Niewiarowski said.

The event on March 30 raised $420 for the Shy-Drager Syndrome and Multiple System Atrophy Support Group, and Sourapas is still receiving donations by mail from people who were unable to attend.

“It was very overwhelming with the turnout and the response from the community,” Sourapas said. “I didn’t really think it was going to get this big.”

“It was a great environment,” Togerson said. “Just lots of people, friends, family and people in the community.”

Sourapas plans to blog about MSA with updates of new information and treatments to help keep supporters informed.

Sourapas has also gained interest in, and support for, her cause within the larger MSA community.

“There’s an overwhelming number of people I don’t know that have MSA that have written on my Facebook saying thank you for being here,” Sourapas said.

“Even though I’m doing such a small part I hope it makes a big dent in MSA awareness.”

For more information about Saving Grace or MSA, contact Sourapas at

To donate to the SDS/MSA Support Group, visit

Karo Chakhlasyan can be reached at

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