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1,356-mile walk to fund research begins in Keys

A woman set off Sunday on a 1,356-mile-walk from Key West to Philadelphia in hopes of raising $100,000 to help fund multiple sclerosis research and her sister's medical bills.

Beth Bevenour, 39, said she hopes to reach Philadelphia's Liberty Bell in 71 days, averaging about 20 miles a day up the Florida Keys' Overseas Highway to Miami and then along the East Coast.

The Key West waitress' sister, Cara Marie Abbate, 31, who lives near Philadelphia, was diagnosed seven months ago with multiple sclerosis, Bevenour said.

"When I think about how this will forever alter the lives of my sister and her husband, the walk seems a small thing to do," said Bevenour. "I said to my husband one night, "Do you think I could walk from Key West to Philadelphia?' "

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, progressive and often disabling disease that affects about 350,000 people in the United States, according to officials at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Symptoms include numbness, tremor, blurred vision, loss of coordination, fatigue, paralysis and loss of cognitive memory.

Friends and the mayor of Key West bid Bevenour goodbye from the island's southernmost point at 8 a.m. Sunday. She said she plans to donate 80 percent of the proceeds to the Society and Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, with the rest of it going to help Abbate pay for her medical bills.