At its annual Grand Chapter meeting Sunday, the Order of the Eastern Star presented the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation with donations totaling more than $20,000. The gifts, from the Oklahoma Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star and Eastern Star Chapter 77, will fund research on neurological diseases and multiple sclerosis.
“The Eastern Star has been a dedicated partner in the fight against human disease,” said OMRF director of development Tim Yaciuk. “The hard work and kindness of the Eastern Star will provide OMRF scientists with much-needed support as they continue to unravel the mysteries of deadly human diseases.”
Yaciuk accepted two checks at the Eastern Star Training Awards for Religious Leadership and Youth Awards at the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Guthrie. With these gifts, the Order of the Eastern Star has donated more than $90,000 to OMRF since 2002.
Eastern Star members raised the funds through monthly collections at the organization’s 150-plus state chapters and through Chapter 77′s annual Star Bike Ride, which took place in Purcell on September and featured 10-mile, 25-mile and 55-mile courses.
The Star Bike Ride is organized by Purcell’s DeeAnn Simpson, who has a personal stake in battling multiple sclerosis. “My sons and I stood by helplessly as their father battled MS,” she said. “It was heartbreaking to watch his rapid deterioration, and I want to do everything I can to make sure that the disease never strikes my children.”
At OMRF, scientists are currently investigating the role that a common cold virus may play in bringing about MS. If they are able to establish that this virus (known as Epstein-Barr virus) triggers the disease in some people, it could lead to more effective treatments—and perhaps even a vaccine—for the disease, which affects an estimated 400,000 Americans.
“DeeAnn Simpson has taken a personal tragedy and transformed it into something positive,” said Yaciuk. “From her efforts and dedication, we hope, will one day come new treatments for diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.”
Indeed, OMRF scientists have already created an inhibitor for the enzyme believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease. They are now working to turn this discovery into a drug to treat the disease, which affects approximately 4.5 million Americans.
The Order of the Eastern Star is the largest fraternal organization in the world to which both men and women may belong. It counts approximately one million members worldwide, including 20,000 Oklahomans, and is dedicated to furthering charity, education, science and fraternity.
OMRF is a nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and curing human disease. For almost 60 years, its scientists have focused on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease. OMRF is home to Oklahoma’s only member of the National Academy of Sciences.
High-resolution photos of the Star Bike Ride or OMRF’s Tim Yaciuk are available upon request.