Texas Roadhouse manager Sam Roper has a heart for helping those suffering from multiple sclerosis. His father and sister both live with the disease, which effects approximately one of 750 people, according to the National MS Society.
If someone in your family has it, that rate changes to one in 40.
On October 10, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Texas Roadhouse will host its second annual Drive for MS, organized by Roper. Last year, about 100 participants raised more than $12,000. This year, 130 people have signed up. Organizers hope to break the $20,000 mark.
All proceeds go toward the Georgia Chapter of the National MS Society.
In the next fews days follow Snellville Patch, as we highlight local residents affected by MS, a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system.
Sam Roper: Fighting for a Cause
Roper's battle against MS began more than two decades ago, when his father began displaying symptoms.
“I was in college,” Roper recalled. “I was coming home for spring break and got a phone a call. 'Hey, you need to bring everything with you because you're not going back. We can't afford it, dad lost his job.' That's how it all started.”
They fought his company to keep his medical benefits and long-term disability. Over the years, he, his mother and his sister participated in the MS walk in Marietta, where he is originally from, and the fundraiser in Atlanta. When he and his wife relocated to Snellville, they realized there were no MS fundraisers in Gwinnett County.
“Part of the Bike Ride (sponsored by the National MS Society) goes through Gwinnett,” Roper said, “since it goes from Athens to Callaway Gardens, but other than that there's nothing over here.
To put it simply, “if there was a bare spot on the wiring of your car,” said Roper, “that wire would short out. Myelin covers your nerves, and if there's ever a bare spot on your nerves it causes things to misfire.”
Early symptoms are tingling of the hands and feet, numbness, blind spots in your vision, double vision, and loss of bladder control. The tell-tale sign is lesions on your brain, something only an MRI can pick up.
Roper called upper management and requested to sponsor an MS drive here in Snellville. He shared his personal story with them, and they quickly agreed.
According to Sheila Adcock, executive director of the Gwinnett Community Clinic, Texas Roadhouse has been a strong supporter of other fundraising efforts.
“They are phenomenal,” Adcock said. “They allow us to have fundraisers several times a year at the restaurant. On those nights, 10 percent of the profits go back to the clinic.”
Texas Roadhouse recently catered their annual fundraiser, pro bono. Now, she is active in getting the word out for Roper's fundraiser.
Roper's father has a very progressive case of the disease. He began to show symptoms at the age of 40, was diagnosed at 42, and in a nursing home because of the condition by the age of 52. He has been in that nursing home for the apst 12 years.
He tried to conceal his condition from his family, but over time it became impossible to hide. He would often drop his glass, not knowing whether he had a good grip on it or not. When his family gave him a paper cup instead, he would crush it by holding it too tightly.
They often came home to find him lying on the ground, unable to get back up. They even had a local firefighter on speed dial.
“He's still my dad with the same personality,” Roper said. “We can talk about peewee football from when I was six years old, but he couldn't tell what he had for breakfast.”
Short-term memory loss was his earliest symptom, and was what ultimately caused him to lose his job. Today, however, he is doing well in the nursing home.
Generally, more women get the disease than men, though primary progressive MS seems affect genders equally. Roper's sister, Angela Seale, is among those 75 percent of MS cases that are women. She was diagnosed at the age of 21. By then, a lot of progress had made in the study of MS, and she is able to easily manage the condition with medication.
To support MS research and the families affected, contact Sam Roper to participate in his upcoming golf tournament. The cost is $125 per person, or $500 for a team of four to play.
Email Sam Roper at roper.driveforMS@gmail.com for more information, or call him at Texas Roadhouse at (770) 985-1450. Or, stop by Texas Roadhouse for a meal and inquire while you're there.
Tomorrow: Learn about Andrea Cox, an accounting client service manager at Hamilton Financial and mother of two, who was diagnosed with MS in 2008.