graphic for Zebra Run

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College biology students will be participating in the fourth annual Zebra Run for Rare Disease on April 17 at Fort Maurepas Park in Ocean Springs. Students from the Jackson County Campus have volunteered at the event every year since its inception.

The event raises funds for research and clinical trials for a rare and and fatal genetic disorder, Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency (MSD). There will be both a One-Mile Fun Run and a 5K Run.  A zebra costume contest and other activities are included.  There is also a virtual race option available.

“My biology and anatomy students study diseases each semester but putting a face to a disease – especially a rare one that receives very little attention and even less funding – changes the dynamics of an assignment,” said Lynn Zimmerman, biology instructor at MGCCC’s Jackson County Campus. “I see students put our motto of Awareness, Education, & Action into practice.  Their energy and determination, coupled with compassion, continues to lift their genetic research from static pages and into the real world.  Our annual Zebra Run is just one of the ways I see my students excel academically, as well as shine as advocates for rare disease.”

Students in the class learn about MSD while they study a variety of genetic disorders and the research that goes into finding cures for them. It is estimated that as few as 100 children worldwide are living with MSD.

In preparation for the Zebra Run, Zimmerman’s biology classes received a visit on April 6 from Amber Olsen, the founder of the nonprofit United MSD Foundation. Olsen is the mother of seven-year-old Willow, who is the only child in Mississippi diagnosed with MSD. The foundation works toward raising $3 million for research and clinical trials for the disease.

Amber told students, “The technology the United MSD Foundation is funding and pushing forward will help other neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”

One of the projects currently being funded by the Foundation is a Natural History Study that catalogs the disease progression, which costs $300,000 and is required to go to clinical trial.

With the help of scientists and volunteers, the United MSD Foundation has already raised more than $2 million.

“We are fighting to raise funds as the clock is running down quickly for individuals like Willow,” Zimmerman said.  “We are so very close to the funding goal for a gene therapy clinical trial for children.  No matter the time it takes to raise the funds, my students want to help and be there to celebrate saving MSD children, and possibly individuals suffering from other neurological diseases, when that last dollar is raised.”

Registration fee for the Zebra Run is $30 with a swag bag or $15 for race registration only.  

To register or for the event schedule and scholarship opportunities, visit  

For more information, contact Lynn Zimmerman at

Amber Olsen speaking to students
Amber Olsen, founder of the nonprofit United MSD Foundation, speaks to biology students at MGCCC’s Jackson County Campus. Olsen is the mother of seven-year-old Willow, who is the only child in Mississippi diagnosed with MSD. Students in biology classes are volunteering to help with the Zebra Run for Rare Disease on Saturday, April 17 at Fort Maurepas. The run raises funds for MSD research.

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