Multiple sclerosis can rob families of much, too much sometimes. No one knew that better than Ronda Giangreco. Her husband, Michael, who grew up in Wethersfield, lost his mother when he was just 16 years old. The reason, complications associated with multiple sclerosis.
To their surprise, years later in an ironic twist of fate, Ronda, too, was diagnosed with MS. Told that she might not be able to walk for much longer, she pondered where she might walk next. A passionate “foodie,” her next steps led right to her beloved kitchen.
It was there that she decided she would make her indelible mark against MS. Uniting her passion for cooking with her quest to move forward, Ronda went on to concoct a plan that would have her preparing a full course meal for a table of eight each Sunday evening for a year – 52 weeks, to be exact.
“I would triumph over MS one week at a time,” says Ronda, 57, who now resides with Michael next to a vineyard in Sonoma County, Calif.
Ronda served up not only fabulous meals accompanied by California’s best wines, but also evenings full of great conversation, laughter and occasionally, even tears. She labeled the Sunday get-togethers, The Gathering Table.
“What had been predicted to be a year of loss was in fact the fullest of our lives,” recounts Ronda, who has since gone on to share her experience with audiences nationwide.
Ronda recently published a book recounting those special Sundays. Appropriately, her book is called “The Gathering Table, Defying Multiples Sclerosis With a Year of Pasta, Wine and Friends.” She has been named the MS In My Life speaker and will talk at the upcoming Greater Hartford Women Against MS Luncheon, to be held Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
The luncheon event, which includes boutique shopping before and after the luncheon, will also feature reality star Jill Zarin and her sister, radio talk show personality Lisa Wexler.
“When I was young, my father bought a house across the street from my elementary school, Stephen Mix Mitchell Elementary School, so that my mother could sit in her wheelchair and watch my brother, Tommy, and me as we walked to school,” remembers Michael. “Having grown up with such a close connection to MS, I know firsthand how devastating this disease can be and how hard its effects can have on a family. When my wife was diagnosed, I was heartbroken. But fortunately, with the advances that have been made in treatment and her amazing attitude, she's doing very well. I know my mother is watching out for her, too, and that she's very proud of Ronda for all that she's accomplished."
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents battle MS. Statistics reveal women are two times more likely to be diagnosed with MS than are men. Funds raised through Connecticut Chapter events, such as WAMS Luncheons, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure. These funds also provide for the continuation of vital programs and services offered by the chapter to the more than 6,000 Connecticut residents diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease for which there is no cure.
The 2012 NBC Connecticut Women Against MS Luncheon takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Marriott Hartford Downtown on Thursday, Nov. 15. Seats are limited. Boutique shopping begins at 10 a.m. and lunch starts at noon. Boutique shopping will resume after the luncheon, continuing until 3 p.m. Media partners include West Hartford-based NBC Connecticut and The River 105.9. For more information or to reserve a seat, please visit www.ctfightsMS.org.