Barb Checket-Hanks

This issue ofThe NEWSfeatures an article about ductless HVAC equipment installed in the Moon Area School District’s (MASD’s) McCormick Elementary School in Pittsburgh (see the feature article “Contractor and Engineer Team up so Pittsburgh School Opens on Time”). There were the usual reasons for the job: improving comfort and productivity for students and staff, and increasing the value of the property.

But one more reason was mentioned that goes beyond those we typically hear: “There is one child with MS,” said project manager Tom Recker, of contracting firm R&B Mechanical Inc.

I know a lot of people in the industry already know someone with Multiple Sclerosis - usually someone in the family or a close friend, or maybe a co-worker’s family member. You already have a basic understanding of how this disease works. But for the rest of us, here is the lowdown. The disease damages the insulation of the central nervous system. Its effects are similar to the performance of frayed electrical wiring; when they overheat, the damage can cause the nerves to malfunction.

What kinds of malfunctions occur? That depends on which nerves are affected, and there are nerves throughout the human body. Problems can range from sensory problems (numbness or tingling), problems walking or using the hands, right on up to vision problems. Sometimes the disease manifests itself through fatigue that goes beyond what we commonly think of as being tired. Heat makes it all worse.


I know this is a generous industry in every sense of the word. I know that the contractors we often point to as leaders in our “Best Contractor to Work For” contest, often help their employees feel better about where they work, by donating time and effort toward making someone else’s life better. I would like to humbly suggest that more contractors look at MS as a logical connection for our industry’s humane activities.

It makes sense. MS is a disease affected by heat. Our industry takes heat from where it is objectionable, and expels it to where it is unobjectionable. By providing cooling, we could help people with MS function more comfortably in their homes. Our charitable activities already help people stay warm in winter; why not help these people stay cool in summer?

If you are interested in such activities, a good resource would be the National Multiple Sclerosis Society ( This agency is a clearinghouse of current fundraising and awareness-raising activities, such as the various biking and walking events scheduled across the nation. It could be a resource to help a contractor group set up an event to help people with MS get the cooling they need.

There currently are no programs of this nature, so be prepared to do some explaining as to what you have in mind. The Website has links for corporate support and corporate connections - a good starting point. The society likes to increase the value of its corporate connections.

The society already schedules what it calls an MS Awareness Week. This year it was in early March, to take advantage of those cooler temperatures. Corporate sponsors for this year’s Awareness Week included Giant Food Stores, Accorda Therapeutics, Valero Energy, and KPMG, an audit, tax, and advisory firm. Additional corporate stars and partners include Bank of America, Bayer, BP, Dow, FedEx, Microsoft, and the Vitamin Shoppe.

Their work is laudable. None of them have the obvious association that the HVAC industry could. At the same time, you could be providing your employees with a sense of pride, because they work for a company that is doing something special for the community. It means holding your head up high in the supermarket.

The opportunities are there, and the connection seems obvious. Please let me know if your company provides help to this worthwhile segment of the community. I would love to report on it, especially first-time events. If you are already involved in these types of activities, please let me know about those too. We would love to hear about more cases like McCormick Elementary School.

Publication date:04/27/2009