For over 30 years, Bill MacNally worked in the nonprofit health care sector as a senior executive. And, while multiple sclerosis (MS) may have forced him to step down, it also created the opportunity for pursuing his passions. Bill serves on the Board of Managers for the Coon Creek Watershed District, is on the Episcopal Community Services Board, is an avid amateur photographer, and loves to read mysteries. A man with many friends, he travels throughout the U.S. and internationally to visit them-in the past year alone, Bill has been to Africa, Switzerland, England and Ireland, and the Baltic Sea countries. Most of all, Bill loves spending time with his wife, Janet, and Sophie, their Schnauzer.
Bill contributes time and his considerable leadership abilities to a number of advocacy organizations. "I advocate for environmental and watershed issues ... [for] homeless, housing, programs to feed the poor and healthcare issues ... for a whole wide range of issues from healthcare to transportation and housing for those living with MS ... for seniors and disability issues ... and for healthcare reform and ADA reform." The roles he plays differ depending on the situation. Whether it is planning strategy or using his wealth of experience and contacts to open doors for others, Bill has learned that perseverance is the key to success. He observes, "It is very satisfying to look back and see that the seed you helped plant 3 or 5 years ago is now a strong sturdy tree that is really helping people who truly need the help. ... I will not give up fighting for those I believe are disadvantaged in a society that is so privileged."
Bill's MS diagnosis in 1993 forced him to work part-time and to ultimately change his entire approach to how he lived, especially when he had to make the difficult decision to retire in 2001. He recalls how challenging it was to accept the restrictions and lifestyle changes that the disease dictated. Bill recalls that it was his best friend who helped him look at MS as "a gift from God - a gift of time," and reflects how his bewilderment transformed into the question, "What was I going to do with that gift?" He says, "Since then I have asked myself that question on a routine basis so that I try to make a useful contribution to society with part of my time and that I enjoy life all of the time."
The Minnesota chapter of the National MS Society nominated Bill to be a consumer peer reviewer for the Department of Defense Multiple Sclerosis Research Program (MSRP). Working as a reviewer, he admits " ... is time consuming, but very rewarding in that it exposes you to so many new ideas. You get a great opportunity to meet and work with some terrific scientists who listen to what you have to say. You are not expected to be an expert in the science, but you need to be able to understand the work flow. Most importantly, you need to understand the impact the work will have on the broader MS community and you have to be willing to articulate that for the panel. You have to be willing to speak up and ask questions. And, sometimes your question is the one that makes the real difference on how a grant gets rated. It is a terrific honor and privilege to be selected to be a reviewer."