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Local chef does her part to fight MS

On April 1, over 300 walkers from around the North Shore and as far away as Wales, MA, and Manchester, NH, came to Marblehead’s Devereaux Beach to participate in the 2006 MS LifeLines Walk. The Walk is one of 18 annual fundraising walks held throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire that are sponsored by the Central New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society ( to raise money to help fight Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Last year, over 5,000 walkers raised more than $1.5 million.

“People prefer the convenience and identity of a local walk,” says Central New England Chapter Director of Communications Steve Sookikian. “That’s why we do so many local walks, rather than just one big one in Boston.”

MS is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, causing highly unpredictable and often devastating symptoms that include fatigue, paralysis, and blindness. Over 400,000 people in the US have MS, and 200 new cases are diagnosed each week, most of them in women.

“Without the MS Walk,” Sookikian says, “we might as well turn back time over 50 years, when there were no medicines to treat MS, and no one knew how the disease worked, and there was no help for your needs today, and no hope for a cure tomorrow.”

Fortunately, there is the Walk and there are thousands of people who participate throughout New England, including the hundreds who gather in Marblehead.

“People who do the Walk [and] people who volunteer at the Walk,” Sookikian suggests, “they really are heroes.  They don’t have to do this.  They can stay home and leave it up to someone else.  MS Walkers are heroes because they put themselves second, and they put the cause first.”

Each year, individuals and teams come to Marblehead to walk in support of friends and relatives who may no longer be able to as a result of this debilitating disease. And though the reason for the event may not be joyous, when it is over, the walkers reconvene on the beach to celebrate their contribution to what will they hope will be a happy ending.

“MS Walkers are outstanding human beings,” Sookikian says, “because they take action today to make tomorrow better.”

And there waiting to meet these “outstanding human beings” is Louise Moore, the chef from the popular Beach-side eatery Flynnie’s (

“I started doing this in 1992,” says Moore, who notes that she has “too many friends with MS” not to be involved in some way. A Danvers native, Moore was studying to be a high school math teacher when she got a job in a kitchen.

“I started working as a prep cook in college to pay my rent,” she recalls, “and I fell in love with it!”

Having moved to Marblehead in 1988, Moore began to work with the MS Society even before her restaurant was known as Flynnie’s.

“It will actually be 10 years in April that we are Flynnie’s,” she recalls, “but I was here when this place was called The Sand Bar and Grill.”

Fortunately, when the restaurant changed hands, new owner Jeff Flynn not only allowed Moore to continue her community-serving ways, but encouraged her.

“He gives me the creative freedom to run the place and to get involved in things like this and the Cancer Walk,” Moore says appreciatively. “Most times, he will be right next to me serving the food.”

And there is a lot to serve! From 50 gallons of soup to 50 pounds of vegetarian pasta salad and tuna and chicken salad, Moore and her team spend weeks preparing.

“The night before, I am in the kitchen for six or seven hours cutting up chicken and making salad,” Moore says. “My main contribution is time. I don’t own the restaurant, so the financial part is more the owner’s contribution.”

In addition to helping finance and serve the food, Flynn also makes sure that the walkers have places to wash up before eating. “He turns the water on and opens the bathrooms even when the restaurant we have on the beach is not open,” Moore notes, “which it is not in April.”

Moore also thanks her food purveyors and the MS Society’s army of volunteers themselves for their contributions.

“We couldn’t do it without their help,” Moore says, noting her suppliers donate as much as half of the food for the day. “It is really fun to be able to work alongside our customers!”

And the contributions do not end when the last walker finishes his meal.

“Anything we have left over goes to the local fire department and to a homeless shelter in Salem,” Moore says. “It is a feel-good day because you are helping out a lot of people.”