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Originally published April 1, 2011 at 10:09 PM | Page modified April 2, 2011 at 4:21 PM

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Seahawks mascot raises money, awareness for Sunday's MS walk

Even though football season hasn't started yet, "Blitz" is rallying Seattle Seahawks fans to come out in droves Sunday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Multiple sclerosis fundraiser

2011 Walk MS in Seattle

What: Walk MS to benefit the National MS Society, Greater Northwest Chapter. The chapter serves 12,000 people with multiple sclerosis in Alaska, Montana and Central and Western Washington.

When: Sunday. Registration at 8:30 a.m. Walk starts at 9:30 a.m..

Where: Begins and ends at Husky Stadium.

Register: Online at walkwas.nationalmssociety.org or in person Sunday morning.

Donate: Join Team Blitz (blitztacklesms.com) or another team on the Walk MS website.

In 2010 more than 10,000 people participated in Walk MS events in the Northwest. A total of $1,976,000 was raised, and organizers hope to break $2 million this year. Walks will be held Saturday in Tacoma, Snohomish County, Olympia, Bellingham, Bainbridge Island, Kennewick, Yakima and Silverdale.

Source: Walk MS Northwest

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Even though football season hasn't started yet, "Blitz" is rallying Seattle Seahawks fans to come out in droves Sunday.

The Seahawks' energetic cheerleader will be joined by mascots from 11 other National Football League teams to help Team Blitz kick off the multiple sclerosis walk in Seattle.

So while owners and players in the NFL remain at odds over the upcoming season, at least the mascots are keeping busy.

Walk MS, which benefits the Greater Northwest Chapter of the National MS Society, is especially meaningful for the man underneath Blitz's feathers, Ryan Asdourian.

Asdourian, 30, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in December 2008, and has been doing everything in his power to raise awareness for the disease since.

"It's events like these that help raise awareness and help people understand what people diagnosed with MS go through," Asdourian said.

Multiple sclerosis affects the flow of information between the brain and the body, and hinders movement. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's website, 400,000 people in the United States are living with MS, and 200 are diagnosed every week.

Multiple sclerosis is diagnosed more often in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest, although it's not clear why.

Asdourian, whose day job is as a hardware-marketing lead at Microsoft, says he has made the most of his ailment, going so far as to call himself "lucky" because of everything he's gotten to do in the last few years.

"You kind of feel like Lou Gehrig when he said he was the luckiest man alive," Asdourian said.

In the past couple of years, Asdourian has traveled to Africa, Europe and South America. On Friday he returned from Germany, just in time for Sunday's Walk MS event.

"I'm excited because I've been able to turn this around into a really good thing," he said.

That includes suiting up as Blitz on fall and winter Sundays. For the past five years, Asdourian has paraded up and down the sidelines at Qwest Field leading chants for 67,000 screaming Seahawks fans.

Asdourian said he simply emailed the Seahawks at the right time, got a tryout and nailed it.

"It's absolutely the greatest job in the entire world," Asdourian said. "I get to run around like a crazy person, but when I take the head off, no one wants to talk to me."

Asdourian had previous mascot experience. He spent four years as the Gator at the University of Florida.

Multiple sclerosis affects each person differently. Asdourian's main symptom is a numbing and tingling sensation in his legs and hands "that comes and goes," and slightly impaired balance. So far, Asdourian says — and fans can attest — MS has not affected his performance as Blitz.

When his MS does flare up — which has happened three times in the past two years — Asdourian goes to the doctor to get a steroid pack. He also goes in for regular checkups to monitor the disease.

Last year, Team Blitz raised more than $70,000 and won Rookie of the Year and Biggest Team honors. Asdourian won the MS Society's Achievement Award and was the keynote speaker at the MS Luncheon that raised more than $300,000.

This year, Team Blitz made its goal $134,000 — Qwest Field's capacity of 67,000 people multiplied by two — and as of early Friday evening had raised $58,447.

"The walk is a big celebration of life, and that's what we want to encourage people to do. Come out and raise funds and raise hope," said Karen Sanger, the director of community engagement for the Greater Northwest Chapter of the National MS Society.

Blitz will be joined by Jaxson De Ville (Jacksonville Jaguars), Blue (Indianapolis Colts), Miles (Denver Broncos), Big Red (Arizona Cardinals), Toro (Houston Texans), T-Rac (Tennessee Titans), Billy Buffalo (Buffalo Bills), Freddie Falcon (Atlanta Falcons), Staley (Chicago Bears), Sir Purr (Carolina Panthers) and Rampage (St. Louis Rams).

Asdourian, who doesn't plan on hanging up his beak anytime soon, hopes Seahawks fans and everybody else will talk to each other and spread awareness about Walk MS.

"I think the really big thing is just telling people," Asdourian said, showing he can motivate even when not in costume. "Even if you're not registered, you can just come out and enjoy it. ... The more traffic we can drive, the better."

David Krueger: 206-464-2212 or dkrueger@seattletimes.com

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