Photo by Shane Harms
Molly Johnston with friends starting out the MS Pub Crawl at the Ballard Loft.

Ballard bars host ninth annual MS pub crawl

In black, grey and the symbolic MS color, orange, participants toured Ballard Avenue for the 9th annual Multiple Sclerosis Pub Crawl Mar. 9.

Attendees paid three dollars a pint for Alaska, George Town, and Lowercase brews,and 50 percent of all beer sales were donated. Pubs included the Ballard Loft, King’s Hardware, Hattie’s Hat, Sunset Tavern and BalMar.

MS is a disease of the nervous system where the insulating lining of the nerve cells erode and make communication between the parts of the body difficult. Fatigue is a common symptom. Moreover, MS is a progressive disease with no cure. 400 thousand people in the U.S. have been diagnosed and 2.5 million worldwide.

Molly Johnston started the pub crawl nine years ago. Her father, Steve, was diagnosed with MS two years before Johnston was born. Four years ago her father passed.

“What keeps me going is that we haven’t found a cure yet, and so I have plans to keep doing at the least pub crawl until its found,” said Johnston.

Johnston originally started the benefit when she was 21 and it took the form of a house party with mostly friends attending. Over the years it has grown to average around 250 to 300 people per crawl and has raised over $70 thousand since its inception. Past years have raised seven to nine thousand on average, but this year Johnston said she had hopes to breach the $10 thousand marker.

This year the fundraiser came close to reaching its goal at just under $10 thousand. All proceeds went to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

What’s different about this year’s crawl was that crawlers started at The Loft and had more street presence, which Johnston said helped bring in people that may have not known about the event. Moreover, there were prizes given via raffle, including hotel stays, restaurant gift cards and a football autographed by Seahawks player, Cliff Averal. Johnston said they saw about 175 people show up at the start of the event and raffle
tickets sold out before 5 p.m.

“My fundraiser technique is to not just ask for donations but rather to make sure participants get something out of it like a prize or a unique experience,” said Johnston.

Beside the crawl, Johnston has also founded a team named after her father for Seattle’s Walk MS and since she started they have raised over $120 thousand.

Her passion has become her job. Johnson works at the National MS Society as a fundraiser.

“I started the event and the walk and it’s become my career. It’s my own personal thing.”

The crawl used to be held in Fremont and this is the second year Johnston has asked Ballard businesses to host.

“I love Ballard. We were in Fremont for a few years, but Ballard just seems a little more supportive and jumped right in. The bars and restaurants are easy to work with and want to be a part of it. I really appreciate Ballard for that.”

Dan Murphy, owner of the Ballard Loft, said that the fundraiser is important for the community and that he plans to partner with Johnston in the future.

“Molly is an amazing organizer which makes it easy for us to be a part of it. … It really is a great cause and it's good for businesses to be a part of it and bring in some good people to support benefits like this,” said Murphy.

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