BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – 33 WYTV is celebrating women who make a difference in our community.
Samantha Villella is a powerful force in the MS (multiple sclerosis) community, both locally and nationally. After two close family members were diagnosed with the disease, Villella had it on her heart to raise awareness.
MS is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information between the body and brain.
Beyond educating herself, Villella has raised funds, walked, volunteered, gone to Washington, D.C. and even started a podcast.
Her mission is to make sure that one day, MS stands for “mystery solved.”
“I know that each day is a struggle and if you surround yourself with the right people they will be there to help you to get through whatever adversity,” she said.
For Villella and her younger sister, Nikki Snyder, family is everything.
“She’s an incredible advocate for MS and the MS society, everyone living with MS. So I knew I had to do something to let everyone know how special she is,” Snyder said.
If you ask Snyder, Villella embodies what being a “Remarkable Woman” is all about, saying she so selflessly gives of herself to raise awareness for MS.
Villella’s passion ignited when her mom was diagnosed with a progressive form of MS in 2008.
“We really threw ourselves into having a walk team locally and participating at the local level, but that was all we really did. Then I said, well, we have to do more than this and I said we need to have a charity dinner. So through that, KV’s Krew was born,” Villella said.
KV’s Krew is a nonprofit organization in honor of Villella and Snyder’s mom, Kathy.
Six years later, Snyder was also diagnosed with MS.
“I just remember her sitting on the couch sobbing and watching that journey. Now, my mom has MS and my sister has MS and you begin to think what’s that going to look like for me, for my brother? And I just dove even more into being an advocate,” Villella said.
“She’s been my biggest cheerleader since I was diagnosed. She comes to my treatments with me, my doctor’s appointments with me, she’s always researching things for me,” Snyder said.
In the 12 years since her mom and sister were diagnosed, Villella has taken her advocacy to new heights at the local, state and national levels. She’s become an ambassador, an award-winning activist and has gone to several public policy conferences in Washington, D.C. since 2015.
“I have continued every year to attend Washington, D.C. Attend the public policy conference, work with our legislators on public policies that matter, not only to those living with MS but to their families,” Villella said.
She even co-hosts her own podcast with a close friend who’s also fighting MS. “Need to Know with Sam and John” helps listeners navigate an MS diagnosis in today’s world.
“The more we educate people about multiple sclerosis and how it affects not only the individuals living with the disease but also their families and their friends and their communities, the more awareness we’re going to bring, which means the more funds,” Villella said.
She says she does it all for one simple reason.
“I do it because it’s the right thing to do every day. Our family, my family have always taught us you give of your time, your talent and your money,” Villella said.
Villella is leading the way, inspired by her mom and sister.
“They’re my ‘why.’ They’re the reason I get up every day, and I don’t necessarily know if that ‘cure’ — because it’s something different for everyone — is going to be in our lifetime,” she said.
But Villella says small, significant breakthroughs are being made every day to combat this disease.
“With the amount of disease-modifying therapies we have, the way we are able to research, the different types of research projects we have, we are making such headway and it’s so hopeful. So I would say, don’t lose hope on what we have going. Something we always tell our listeners at the end of every episode is, you’re never alone in this fight against multiple sclerosis,” Villella said.
On top of all of her advocacy work, Villella has a full-time job as a sales representative here in the Valley.
Villella wants to remind everyone that MS Awareness Week is this coming March 8-14. Events during March bring attention to new research into the condition. They also raise awareness of the challenges that people with MS face.