By Michelle Colesanti

Since 2008, the Conquer Chiari Walk Across America has been an annual fundraising and awareness event comprised of a series of local walks held on the same day across the country.

Chiari Malformation is a serious neurological disorder affecting over 300,000 people in the U.S. and occurs when the cerebellum descends from the base of the skull, causing pressure to one’s spine. Due to this, victims can have dizziness, migraine-like headaches, neck pain, severe weakness in extremities and respiratory issues. It can also lead to a disruption in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, creating fluid-filled cysts on the spine known as syringomyelia, which can cause nerve damage and even paralysis.

In 2014, the event was held at 77 locations, involved more than 13,600 participants, and raised over $715,000. At the Tampa Walk, 665 participants raised over $29,000.

This year’s walk will be held on Saturday, September 19 at Al Lopez Park, 4810 N. Himes Ave. in Tampa.

Local resident Vonda Maxwell helps to organize the Tampa area walk each year. She and her three children are affected by Chiari. According to Maxwell, “We have a great need for donations, raffle items, food, photographers, volunteers, and walkers as this has been a very hard year.”

Proceeds will be used to fund Chiari research, education and awareness programs. Participation is free. T-shirts will be provided for pre-registered walkers with a minimum donation of $25 (deadline is Sunday, August 16).

Maxwell commented, “We work almost year-round on the Conquer Chiari Walk Across America for our children’s futures; so maybe our grandchildren may not have to suffer from Chiari; for all Chiarians need a standard of care; so less people have complications, and better outcomes.”

Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 11 a.m. The walking distance is 1.4 miles and participants can walk at their own pace. There will also be a DJ, crafts and face painting for the young ones.

Participants can pre-register at For more information or to help with donations or sponsorship, contact Serenity Harper at 990-7801

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Michelle Colesanti
Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.