Wade Brody was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly before his graduation from the University of Maryland.
He still went to work for a while at his family’s Vineland business, Brody’s Furniture Store. He had a debilitating form of the disease, however, and it forced him to give up that job.
But MS also gave him a new career. Before he died last month at 43, Brody had spent his life raising all the money he could for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s campaign to find a cure for the disease.
And he was a huge success. By the MS Society’s count, Brody, of Millville, helped raise about $2.7 million for the organization over the second half of his life.
He did much of that after 1998, when he started an annual MS Walk in Parvin State Park in Pittsgrove Township, Salem County.
“He’s the one who came up with the idea to start the walk there, and he has been an ambassador for it ever since,” said Laurie Zerumsky, of the MS Society’s Greater Delaware Valley Chapter.
Zerumsky said Brody was very active in planning the walk again this year, despite the fact that it was in May, just a month before he died. But even when he was confined to his bed for the past few years, Brody didn’t confine himself to a single way of raising money.
Joanne Brody is married to Wade’s dad, Mel, and she spent a lot of time in the past few years taking care of her stepson. (Wade’s mother, Susan, died in 2006.) Joanne said Wade liked having visitors, but he wasn’t at all shy about hitting them up for money.
“We used to get a little (disturbed) because he was always asking for donations,” Joanne said.
She laughed telling the story of one well-to-do friend, a guy who gets regular requests to give to good causes. He told the Brodys that when most charties come to him, they ask him to give the same amount he did the year before.
“But Wade would go to him and say, ‘Could you double what you did last year?’” Joanne said.
Wade had reasons for being so forceful. For one, his younger sister, Tara Perry, of Charlestown, W.Va., was also diagnosed with MS — although she is free of symptoms so far, Joanne said.
The other thing is, “Wade truly believed he was put on this Earth to raise money for MS,” his stepmother said. “That’s why he was never bitter — he believed that was his mission.”
For all his work, Wade won awards. He was the youngest member of the National MS Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 2001. The next year, the Vineland Library Foundation honored him as its “Philanthropist of the Year.”
A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.
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