The Sister Mary Project will host a Nov. 3 concert in Newberg to highlight caregivers' work that often goes unnoticed

For an individual suffering with multiple sclerosis, life and its everyday challenges can be very difficult. MS is typically a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system and can often disrupt the flow of information to the brain and the body.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kevin and Joe O'Louglin started the Sister Mary Project to celebrate caregivers after their sister was diagnosed with MS 20 years ago.

Kevin and Joe O'Loughlin know all about the incurable disease: their sister Mary was diagnosed with a progressive form of MS 20 years ago. The two took on the role of caregiver to their sister as the disease progressed, with Joe eventually taking on the task full-time in her home. The brothers came to better understand and appreciate the work and sacrifice that goes into being a caregiver from a physical, financial and emotional standpoint.

"We have this great appreciation for how much work it is," Kevin said.

As a result, the brothers came up with an idea to celebrate those caregivers who put in so much work that often goes uncelebrated.

"They live with people 24/7. It's a very difficult job and it's hard to appreciate how much work that takes," Kevin said. "We're trying to pay it forward."

That's where the idea for the Sister Mary Project came from to celebrate those caregivers. But the pair wanted to do something different, to create an entire evening of celebration and good times, and they wanted something with live music.

According to the Sister Mary Project website, people serving as caregivers can often struggle to find ways to express themselves when a loved one is sick, but this can often lead to those caregivers finding new talents they never knew they had and turning those talents into tools "for compassionate expression and assistance to these loved ones."

That led to wanting to put on concerts to celebrate the community of caregivers, which became the Sister Mary Project. Both O'Loughlin brothers play in the band, which plays original songs written by Kevin.

The Sister Mary Project aims to "create a community of support, where individuals can share their talents and experiences helping loved ones, and themselves, plus process the emotional stress of living with or caring for those with serious long-term illnesses," according to the website, and that the Sister Mary Project "wants to be responsive to the community it serves – currently focusing on house concerts that provide a close and intimate setting to get to the essence of the material and the message."

The Sister Mary Project will host one of these events Nov. 3 at the Vineyard Event Center at the Claygate Estate Vineyard at 17205 N.E. Dopp Road west of Newberg.

Kevin says they'd ideally like to do one of these events annually in Newberg, but also hopes to expand to other areas, such as to Monterey, Calif., where Mary and Joe currently live.

The event starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $25 online and at the door, with all proceeds going to the MS Society and local caregiver agencies. Light appetizers and wines from the vineyard will be available as well.

Before the music and dining begins, the evening will start with honoring caregivers. Local agencies will nominate a caregiver who will be highlighted at the event for their work and the agency will highlight the caregiver's work in the community. Local agencies like Visiting Angels, Faith in Action and United Home Care Services will be on-hand at the Nov. 3 event as well.

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