Local Musician is Busking for Mobility
By Brady Smith, Anchor/Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, affects more than 2 million people worldwide, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It affects the central nervous system, often causing numbness and mobility problems. One Cedar Rapids man, armed with only a couple musical instruments, has been performing on the street to help people with the disease.
Four years ago, Mark Brown started strumming, singing, and humming to raise money for MS research and treatment or as he calls it, "busking for mobility."
Brown has been a busker, or street performer, for a long time, so he makes it look easy, but playing became a challenge for him 13 years ago.
"I had sensations coming down the side of my face, which I was hoping it wasn't an aneurysm, but then I was losing control of my fingers a little bit," Brown recalled.
An MRI revealed he had MS. However, it doesn't keep him from carrying a tune.
"I got quite a few here, I've got about 200 songs," Brown said.
Like any good street performer, Brown takes requests. He knows a great deal of oldies.
"The kids look at me kind of puzzled sometimes," Brown said. "I see a lot of the older people, and they sing along when they walk by. They know the song."
To keep the music going, Brown devised a little tool he attached to his strumming thumb, with part of a rubber glove and super glue.
"I invented this back in 2003, because my fingers were kind of numbing and I couldn't hold onto a pick," Brown explained. "They only last for a while, and then I've got to make new ones."
Brown is guessing he's raised more than $6,000 in the last four years, all going to the National MS Society, after a brief stop in his bucket.
"I had a guy one time throw me a 20 [dollar bill]," Brown laughed. "Then I had a guy one time requested four songs, I played four songs and he threw me a quarter."
But every cent counts. Brown doesn't know what the future holds, as MS symptoms can turn on a dime.
"There's people who go into wheelchairs, and then all of a sudden they're able to get out of the wheelchair. I've heard stories of people going blind, and all of a sudden they get their eyesight back," Brown told us.
He's dedicated to playing through whatever comes along.
"As long as they want me here and as long as I'm able to play guitar, I'll keep doing it," he said.
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