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Confronting the terror within
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Why I Give
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Spring 2002
Why I Give
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"We were blessed with friends who wanted to help, who really felt for our plight — ours and our daughter's," Tom recalls. "They wanted to do something, but they didn't know how."

The Sheraks created a foundation at UCLA dedicated to multiple sclerosis research. "We didn't have millions of dollars to give," Tom says. "But we provided the seed money. Now all our friends were able to do whatever they wanted to do for us by giving to the Sherak Family Fund for MS at UCLA."

Contributors have included friends both inside and outside of "the business," from Hollywood producers to teachers at Madeleine's middle school. The gifts thus far have totaled about $2 million, enabling UCLA to bring in four new researchers in MS and attract additional research grants.

The Sheraks also played a role in the creation of UCLA's Marilyn Hilton Multiple Sclerosis Center, a rehabilitation facility for people who suffer from the more debilitating second stage of MS.

Melissa, in the meantime, has gone on to complete two degrees at UCLA, a B.A. in psychology in 1994 — serving on the Bruin cheerleading squad along the way — and an M.P.H. in 1999. And while she still struggles with what is termed relapsing-remitting MS, with symptoms that come and go unpredictably, she is helped by a medication that is among many recent advances in MS research. The mother of a 2-year-old, she works part-time at UCLA's Center for Human Nutrition, teaches nutrition at Pepperdine University, runs support groups for other young MS sufferers and, recently, as an example of a local champion, carried the Olympic torch through L.A.

"You hope that this — a disease like this — never enters your life," says her father. "But if it does, you can sit back and feel sorry for yourself — or you can feel positive and make a difference. We believe that we can make a difference.

"The thing that is so amazing to us," he adds, "is that it's not us making the difference; it's all our friends."

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