She made quite a name for herself in TV and radio, andwe’re proud to feature her firstever magazine article! Susan Sweeney Crum shares a special story with us of an amazing woman doing big things: her friend and ours, Jeannie Unruh.
When you meet Jeannie Unruh, she seems to be the picture of health. She’s outgoing, active and loves to be around people. But 34 years ago, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At 30 years old, Unruh envisioned a future that included being bedridden and living in a wheelchair, “a burden” to her family. All those were common among people diagnosed with MS a generation or two earlier. Fortunately, new medications were changing all that, and creating a much brighter future for people diagnosed with MS. Just as important, she was paired with her “angel of hope,” a woman 15 years older than Jeannie, who was mobile, active and showed few “obvious” signs of illness. That’s when Jeannie decided she wanted to be that person for others.
So she has been active with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, on the local and national level, educating and encouraging others, and helping raise money for research for the illness. “I’ve been very involved with the mission since I was diagnosed. After the first couple years, I just felt that... that’s what I was made to do.”
She and her husband Victor agreed to host a gala at their home in Floyds Knobs that has grown from a few hundred people the first year to the 550 they expect this month. They have successfully developed what she calls a “party with a purpose.” “We have created a party that people like to come back to, it’s lots of fun. They know why they’re here, we al- ways have a mission element.”
The gala includes a cocktail hour, dinner, live auction and a band. The auction offers items from a trip to Switzerland, golf at Pebble Beach to concert tickets, but there will also be opportunities to help at whatever your comfort level for contribution.
“Maybe your one dollar is the one that makes a difference, that helps us find a cure. So, every dollar counts. I think we have an event where people get that. So I think that’s why it’s been so successful, it appeals to a lot of different people!”
Over the last 9 years, the event has raised $3 million for the National MS Society, which then distributes funds back to the local chapters.
The annual event was growing so fast, the Unruhs decided several years ago to build their own venue for it, a 14,400 square foot “barn” that includes heat and air conditioning and offers a panoramic view of both the New Albany and Louisville skylines.