Continuing to Fight: Firestone Employee Championing Battle Against Multiple Sclerosis for 13th Year

Tom Raag began MS Militia in 1997 and since then, with the help of Firestone, the team has raised over $100,000 to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Indiana-based Firestone Diversified Products Company, (FSDP) LLC has not only made the workplace accessible for employees with multiple sclerosis by adapting workspaces and schedules, but it has also joined the fight to find a cure through financial and volunteer contributions.

“My days start a little different than they would for a person without multiple sclerosis,” said Tom Raag, Cash Management Department, FSDP.  “Instead of jumping out of bed and starting my day I have to wait for my body to catch up.  I lift my left leg, then my right leg, then I stretch myself into my wheelchair, then I start the process of getting ready for the day.”

Raag was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1996. The Firestone employee was a 28-year-old newlywed who woke up one morning with blurred vision and unexplained numbness in his arms and legs.  After a visit to a neurologist, and an unexpected diagnosis, Raag made a decision.

“I was never the type of person to give up,” said Raag, “I was going to fight.  I wanted to continue to work, raise a family, and do the things I loved.”

When he was diagnosed, Firestone Compete Auto Care, the retail division of Bridgestone Americas, Inc., FSDP’s parent company, employed Raag.  Since multiple sclerosis made it impossible for him to continue working in this role, the company took steps to accommodate a valued employee with special needs. Firestone redeployed Raag to the FSDP corporate offices where he serves in the accounting department.

Aside from working around a schedule filled with doctor’s appointments and physical therapy sessions, the company has taken measures to ensure Raag can navigate the Firestone facilities as easily possible. In addition to an accessible workstation, the company installed sensors that open office doors with the wave of a hand.

But, it hasn’t just been about Raag. Firestone has joined the fight against multiple sclerosis by offering support to the Indiana Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society through various charitable initiatives.  Fundraising events such as tailgate parties, company-wide auctions, bake sales and company-wide jeans days paired with donations from the Bridgestone Americas Trust Fund have allowed the company to assist Raag, and the other members of the Firestone “M.S. Militia Walk Team,” contribute more than $100,000 over the past 13 years to the National MS Society.  Firestone’s M.S. Militia Walk Team is gearing up for this year’s walk on April 24, 2010 on IUPUI’s campus at 9 a.m.

This year, the Firestone team compounded its efforts by developing a joint effort between FSDP, located in Indianapolis, and the Firestone Complete Auto Care stores, headquartered in Chicago, Ill.  While both organizations have been long-time supporters of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, due to Raag’s efforts, the teams have decided to merge.  This newly formed synergistic approach will allow Firestone’s impact on the fight against multiple sclerosis to be greater than ever before.

For its exemplary efforts in the battle to cure multiple sclerosis, Firestone was named a Corporate Superstar by the Indiana Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in 2009.

“Tom Raag and Firestone have been an inspiration to the chapter for over a decade,” said Joe Pickard, Director of Development for the Indiana Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  “Under Tom’s leadership, the Firestone MS Militia has raised more than $100,000 to support the National MS Society’s programs, services and research.  From all the chapter staff and the nearly 10,000 clients we serve; our very special thanks to the wonderful Firestone employees and managers who provide such outstanding support.”

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