When Audrey Fisher Killen was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 28, she wanted to do everything possible to help find a cure for the chronic, unpredictable neurological disease that affects the central nervous system.
After months of visiting doctors because of tingling and numbness in her fingertips, hands and feet, Killen, who lives in Roxana, Del. and who works at the Ocean City convention center, was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in February. She started treatment in March and receives injections every other day. She said treatment is going well, although she experiences fatigue.
Killen immediately got involved with national and community organizations that work to raise funds that support research. She also participated in the Walk MS event on the Boardwalk in April and, with help from friends, family and co-workers, she was the fourth-highest fundraiser, collecting $1,700 in donations for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“I did it because I needed something positive to focus on,” she said. “I spent a lot of time on it and fundraising helped me focus on the positive rather than the negative.”
After nearly a year of putting in time, hard work and effort to raise funds for different organizations, she became frustrated when she realized only a percentage of the money was going directly to the cause. She wanted to be able to cut out the “middle man” so all funds raised would be used to help find a cure. It led her to create Operation Shooting Star. Her goal is to have 100 percent of donations to the organization fund research.
The inaugural fundraising event for Operation Shooting Star will take place Saturday, Nov. 6, at Trader Lee’s, located on the corner of routes 50 and 611 in West Ocean City. The festivities will begin at noon and continue until about 8 p.m. The $10 cover charge includes food and live entertainment by The Geezers, Aaron Howell Band, Woodstok Nation, Living the Dream and Highly Contagious. DJ MJ will also provide music.
A silent auction, 50/50 raffle, local sweets sale and cash bar will also be available.
To start, all funds will go to research on autoimmune diseases conducted at the Maryland Center for Multiple Sclerosis at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Killen said. As her organization grows, she would like to send funds to autoimmune disease research centers across the country.
“I’m doing this because it’s a passion, not a job. I’ll reap the benefits if they find a cure,” she said. “I want to be able to give the money straight to them and cut out the middle man. Every single penny we make is all going to the University of Maryland.”
Killen’s father, Mark Fisher, has battled Rheumatoid Arthritis for several years. Both Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are autoimmune diseases. Killen said she intends to focus on autoimmunity, not just Multiple Sclerosis.
According to the National Institute of Health, there are more than 80 autoimmune diseases, which include Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Psoriasis and Type 1 Diabetes, and some cause similar symptoms. Several of these diseases share a common immune basis and information obtained from research in one autoimmune condition can be beneficial to others.
“Our motto is ‘Cure One To Cure All.’ If you can cure autoimmunity in one disease, then you can cure them all,” she said. “My goal is to get the word out about Operation Shooting Star and raise awareness that all these diseases are connected. I want to introduce Operation Shooting Star so I can move forward with it and, hopefully, go worldwide some day.”