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Muckfest brings 1,300 to Lawrence County to get dirty, help cause

| Saturday, May 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
Jeff Luce of West Feilds, NY, wipes muddy water from his face after plunging in the Muck Off obstacle at MuckFest in Wampum on May 25, 2103. All funds raised during the event went to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
Jason Long of Indiana, PA works to cross over the Spider Web obstacle during MuckFest in Wampum on May 25, 2103. All funds raised from the event went to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Though she was splattered with mud, soaked with frigid water and shivering violently, Shelli Lusty wouldn't let the elements — or multiple sclerosis — hold her back Saturday.

“I absolutely love this,” said Lusty, 36, of Economy, Beaver County, during a brief pause in a 5-mile trek as part of MuckFest MS, a mud and obstacle fun run fundraiser for the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“Team Lusty,” a group supporting her, raised about $2,000 in donations for event, held at the Meadows and Mines recreational area in New Beaver, Lawrence County.

“It means the world to us, to have all the support of family and friends,” said Greg Lusty, whose wife was diagnosed about 16 years ago with the autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.

With temperatures in the lower to mid-30s Saturday morning, some participants shrieked in shock as their bodies hit the cold water or the muddy ground surrounding some obstacles, which included a rope net and rope swing.

Some people duct-taped their shoes to their legs so that they wouldn't be lost in the mud.

“This was freezing! But I'd definitely do this again next year,” said a mud-coated Vanessa Davis, 45, of Manchester, who was talked into the race by Laura Skinger.

Skinger, 37, of Freedom, Beaver County, was all smiles as she scraped mud off the front of her body moments after jumping off a swing and landing in several feet of bone-chilling, muddy water, then crawling through a muck-filled pipe and jogging across the course finish line. Skinger, the owner of a Curves exercise studio in Bellevue, said she did the event in celebration of losing 306 pounds.

She has other races and exercise events scheduled over the next few months.

Lauren Partridge, 14, of Marshall ran for her mother, Karen Partridge, 45, who has multiple sclerosis.

“It was really cold in the beginning,” Laura Partridge said. “But once you got going, you forgot about it.”

Ashley Kowalski, 26, of Buffalo traveled with several friends to raise about $680 on behalf of her mother, Mary, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 25 years ago.

“This is one, whole, big support system,” Kowalski said just before setting out on the course.

There were no reports of hypothermia or other medical problems, said Susan Cook, development coordinator for the Western Pennsylvania chapter.

About 1,300 people signed up for the inaugural event locally, Cook said, and raised about $100,000.

Each year, the organization raises about $4 million through walks, bike rides and other events.

The event is retuning to Western Pennsylvania in 2014.

More information is available through muckfestms.com.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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