Annual benefit features hero in battle against MS
DARIEN — Kate Milliken was a single, 35-year-old video producer when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She wanted to know her life could go on, but when she went online, she didn’t find what she needed.
“I wanted to really know what my life would be like living with it and to find someone with the experience who’d say ... your life has potential to be great,” she said. “But I couldn’t find someone, and that was an issue.”
Milliken began documenting her first year with MS with 32 mini films she posted online. She found there was a tremendous response: The majority of people watched all 40 minutes of her film.
“In it, I’m totally emotionally vulnerable,” she said. “I threw it out in the universe, because that’s what I wanted to find. It was clear people needed to find a way to lay out their moments because it makes people feel better, gives perspective and helps reach others.”
In 2013, Milliken launched a storytelling platform, mycounterpane.com, where people can record their journeys with epilepsy, Lyme disease, chronic pain, MS and mental illness. The platform not only allows people to share their physical and emotional struggles, but has also helped give them a sense of purpose, which helps them in healing.
“One thing that has been clear to me is so many issues come down to being socially isolated, and it’s now being proven loneliness kills, literally,” the Bronxville, N.Y., resident said. “So how powerful it is to watch people step out of loneliness and transform themselves.”
My Counterpane and the healing power of storytelling are what Milliken, now CEO of her tech startup, as well as a mom of two, will be discussing at the Center for Hope’s annual benefit luncheon on May 16 at the Wee Burn Beach Club.
The Center for Hope is a program of the Family Centers, a nonprofit organization serving Greenwich, Stamford, Darien and New Canaan through human services and counseling programs. The center hosts an annual luncheon to raise money for its services, as well as for the Den for Grieving Kids, a support group primarily for children who have lost a loved one.
The center will also present a Ray of Hope award to the Alternate Routes, a Fairfield County band, which will be performing at the event.
“It should be a great afternoon this year,” said Bill Brucker, vice president of Family Centers. “We’re giving a Ray of Hope award out to a person or group who has really done a lot in the realm of providing inspiration for those who have lost someone. A lot of (the Alternate Routes) songs deal with themes of loss and hope and all the other various emotions that go into a tragic event. We’re honoring them for using music as an element of healing.”
“It’s hard to talk about it in terms of our own music and songs, but I know the effect music has had on my life,” Donnelly said. “It’s something that never ceases to amaze me.”