College student takes on Multiple Sclerosis

Peach starts fundraising network among Big 10 schools

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By MARTY STEMPNIAK

River Forest resident Kevin Peach doesn't want to be just another apathetic college student.

Sick of the perceived laziness and disinterest of his peers concerning societal issues, Peach created the Collegiate Association for Multiple Sclerosis (CAMS), a non-profit organization raising money and awareness for the treatment of MS.

"I feel like college kids aren't as active as they should be," he said. "A lot of philanthropy should be derived at the collegiate level."

Peach, 21, a 2004 OPRF graduate going into his senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, started the organization last December when he participated in a couple of local runs and walks in Madison benefiting MS.

His best friend's cousin suffers from the disease. So does another friend's mom, which helped push Peach over the edge toward starting CAMS. He threw a barbecue in April of 2006 to raise money, tallying $750, which helped prove he could start a group and make a difference.

"I figured, if I could do that in a day, if I had an organization, I could really make a difference," Peach said.

Last month, he threw a benefit at Molly Malone's Irish Pub in Forest Park. Through a cover charge, raffle and silent auction, Peach raised $4,000, which he's using to branch CAMS out to other schools in the Big 10 conference.

This upcoming school year, group chapters will launch at Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. OPRF graduates lead all three.

"I had no idea how many people [MS] actually affects," said Tommy Peth, 19, a 2006 graduate and president of the Indiana chapter. "I didn't realize it was so prevalent, and at that point figured more people felt the same and had the same perspective."

Multiple Sclerosis is an "auto-immune" disease where a victim's immune system attacks his or her own brain and spinal chord, impairing vision, muscle control, balance and sensation. The disease afflicts approximately 400,000 Americans and 2.5 million worldwide, according to the National MS Society.

With the money raised, Peach plans to tour other Big 10 schools, giving speeches about MS to students, raising awareness and attempting to start new chapters. He hopes the conference will eventually gain recognition as one of the most philanthropic in the nation.

"I'm just trying to get a lot of college kids involved-that's my main motivation," Peach said. "Back in the '70s, that's when people were activists and actually did things they believed in. I feel there's a horrible case of apathy that's taken over college kids these days, and I want to change that."

Those interested in starting their own CAMS chapter or just getting involved in the fight against MS can contact Kevin Peach at 708/790-0773 or camsuw@gmail.com.

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