Litchfield County Teens Receive Hayley & Michaela Petit MS Youth Award

Nov 17, 2008


Lisa Cook


LITCHFIELD, Conn. — When Abby and Virginia Orzell decided to walk at the 2008 Travelers Walk MS in Litchfield, Conn., the two Morris, Conn., teens brought along a few friends.


“They had an assembly at their school, Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, and recruited more than 100 volunteers to come out and help at the walk,” says MaryAnn Orzell, the girls’ mother. “They just told the kids what it’s like when your mom has multiple sclerosis. They said things like, ‘Imagine if your mom or dad couldn’t help you study, couldn’t go skiing with you.’ ”


In fact the girls’ Walk MS team, Abby and Ginny’s Crew, totaled more than 20 people and brought in more than $6,000 — nearly half of that raised by Abby and Ginny alone.

“I’m so proud and impressed with how they were really driven for the walk.”


The Orzell girls were honored for their hard work recently by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter. Virginia, 17, and Abby, 13, were presented with the Hayley & Michaela Petit MS Youth Award, created in memory of the generous spirit of Hayley and Michaela Petit of Cheshire, Conn., who were both very active in the Connecticut Chapter and the fight against multiple sclerosis. Hayley and Michaela’s father, William Petit Jr., presented the award.


“These two young girls show extraordinary courage in the face of sometimes overwhelming challenges,” said Petit at the MS All Stars celebration, which took place Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, Conn. “After their mother’s diagnosis of MS, Abby and Virginia Orzell stepped up to the plate to help make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by the baffling and unpredictable effects of MS.”


More than 6,000 Connecticut residents live with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease affecting the central nervous system. The cause is unknown and, as a result, there currently is no cure. Symptoms can include, among other things, numbness and tingling in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness and, in some severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.


When MaryAnn Orzell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002, the girls were too young to understand the implications, says their mom. Abby and Virginia’s roles in helping the family grew as the potentially debilitating effects of this disease began to limit MaryAnn’s movement. These days the girls understand that MS means their mom simply can’t do everything many other mothers can.


At home Virginia and Abby take on many household chores: they make dinner, vacuum … even clean the bathrooms. And on the days when the fatigue is just overwhelming for their mother the two young women bridge the gap, taking on household responsibilities their mom would ordinarily handle.


But there was one thing the girls refused to accept. When MaryAnn recently decided that symptoms of her MS would keep her from helping organize this year’s Walk MS in Litchfield, her two daughters wouldn’t take no for an answer.


“They told me, ‘You have to do it, Mom. We’ll do all the work,’ ” says MaryAnn.

The 2009 Walk MS will take place Sunday, April 19, at the Litchfield Town Green and 10 other sites across Connecticut, and Sunday, April 26, in Woodstock, Conn.

When the girls learned they would be receiving the Hayley & Michaela Petit MS Youth Award, they were surprised, but delighted.


“Just knowing that all the work we have done and will continue to do will someday find a cure for this terrible disease that has negatively affected so many people’s lives, including our mom, is our reward,” said Virginia.


“But having the MS Society recognize our efforts is truly wonderful,” said Abby.


For more information on multiple sclerosis, please visit  To learn how to take part in this year’s Walk MS, please contact Michelle Zimnoch, special events director, at 860.714.2300, ext. 234, or