One of South Florida’s most prestigious, high-profile luncheons is returning.
And its return marks a new level of recognition and appreciation for the LGBT community.
The National MS Society’s 39th Annual Together for a Cure: MS Gala Luncheon is set for Friday, Jan. 21, at the West Boca Country Club. Every year, the event gives out the MS Hope Award, recognizing people who raise money and awareness about MS. This year, for the first time in the history of the award, a gay couple is being honored. Paul Polachek and his partner, Doug Bonds, have worked with the MS Society for years. Polachek was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS in 2010, creating physical obstacles and health challenges neither would have ever imagined until it became their reality.
“This award is showing people that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, we [can all get] MS, and we’re in this together,” Bonds said. “One of the things that’s different this year is that Paul and I are the first LGBT couple to receive the award.”
They are both 2022 MS Hope Honorees, in recognition of their years of service to the MS Society. Bonds is co-chair of the Ft. Lauderdale Community Council, has served on the Fort Lauderdale/Aventura Walk MS Committee for 12 years, and is an MS Activist. They have a walk team and are members of the Society’s Golden Circle.
Bonds said that Polachek is doing well and his condition has stabilized, despite having the progressive form of the disease.
“He’s excited about the honor of this award.”
For years, The MS Society has been there for Bonds, Polachek, and thousands like them. They help them navigate special needs, healthcare issues, and more.
“We want to get the word out that Paul and I are doing so well because we could depend upon the National MS Society to help us get things we needed. They stepped up to the plate and because of that relationship, we had no issues.”
The annual luncheon usually has about 1,000 attendees, but last year was held virtually. This year will be in-person and virtual. Bonds said the event is needed more than ever.
“The importance of [this is] Paul and I trying to raise money. The MS Society had a $50 million shortfall from COVID.”
Beyond the financial impacts, the effects of COVID are still being felt by MS patients. Robin Nunley is president of South and Mid Florida’s National MS Society chapters, and said many patients can’t fight COVID and MS at the same time.
“We continue to deal with the ramifications of this pandemic. People with MS take disease-modifying therapies that render the vaccines ineffective. Many who are on these therapies show no antibodies for COVID-19 and they are still uncomfortable in large crowds and in person.”
For more information on the 39th Annual Together for a Cure: MS Gala Luncheon and the MS Society’s work, visit their website at NationalMSSociety.org.