By Raiza Giorgi

One morning Loren Ollenberger got up and, like any other day, got ready for work and went into the office. 

However, he noticed when he got there that his vision wasn’t quite right, his right leg was dragging, and the right side of his body just wasn’t working quite so well.

After going to the doctor and getting tested for various ailments, Ollenberger was diagnosed at age 27 with multiple sclerosis (MS). 

“I fortunately got the version where it comes in episodes and not the kind that gets progressively worse. I have worked with my doctors over the past years doing steroid treatments to help with the symptoms,” Ollenberger said. 

MS is a chronic, disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Symptoms can be mild, such as some numbness in the limbs, or severe, including paralysis or loss of vision. The degree of severity and symptoms vary from person to person. 

Ollenberger said that he was able to hide his diagnosis from most of the people he interacted with, except his wife and other close family members. The diagnosis came right around the time their first child was born.

“Reflecting on that chapter of my life, I regret not sharing that I was diagnosed with and living with MS. I look back now and realize the impact that I may have been able to have as a ‘successful corporate executive’ with MS. Instead of being afraid of how I would be judged, I could have really proven that those with MS are not always as we imagine,” he said. 

In just a few months, Ollenberger will be running 220 miles in eight days for the MS Run the US, a nonprofit organization he is on the board of. This run begins each April in Santa Monica and finishes in New York City in August. It is a relay race where runners are selected to accomplish a set amount of miles in several days. Ollenberger’s portion this year is from Barstow to Las Vegas. 

Each runner also commits to raising at least $10,000 and training for months to complete their segment of the relay. 

“It’s takes several months of running consistently, and as we get to just a month or two out I need to be able to complete two half-marathons in a day in order to be ready. The valley is the best place to train with all the beautiful scenery and rolling hills,” he said. 

Ollenberger completed his first segment in 2017 when he ran from Lincoln, Neb., to Des Moines, Iowa. That was 190 miles in seven days. Ollenberger said he raised $25,000 for that run, and he hopes to meet or exceed that amount this year. 

So far he’s raised $9,300. 

The money supports the organization’s mission to raise awareness of MS, fund research and support those living with disabilities from the disease. 

“Knowing a portion of this money goes to help those with more severe conditions than mine, building wheelchair ramps and accessible bathrooms and more, is wonderful,” he said. 

Ollenberger and his family moved to the Santa Ynez Valley several years ago, and he still recalls receiving a warm welcome. 

The Ollenbergers and another family own the God’s Country Provisions doughnut shop in Buellton. 

Ollenberger said he will be hosting a few events in the valley to raise the rest of his goal on his GoFundMe page. 

His motto, he says, is “I have MS, but MS doesn’t have me.”