(WJAR) — The nonprofit MS Dream Center of Rhode Island came to be in 2009.
"Just had a dream that we needed a place of our own to be educated, to socialize, integrate our ideas," said Marie Perna.
Perna was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis years earlier.
"We have six days a week of exercise," she told NBC 10 News. "We have art class, we have a book club."
Members agree the organization welcomes people with open arms.
"It lets me know I'm not alone in the world. That's important," said Ernie Reid, a longtime member.
Member Bernadette Ferri added, "A place where you can come with no judgment. Nobody judges you when you're here."
Andrea Liu told NBC 10 she was diagnosed with MS in 2015.
Then she, like so many others, found the center, which she says is a Godsend.
"Because of the Dream Center, I don't need an assistive device," she said. "I can still walk myself."
Perna said she's also found benefits.
"It was just a dream of mine, and the seed has grown," said Perna.
In the midst of a pandemic, the MS Dream Center programs began sprouting virtually, and now it is making a difference across the globe.
"Our virtual program now takes in 40 states. So, we have people throughout the entire U.S. and Canada," said Perna.
They have a few mottos:
Every family has a story: Welcome to ours.
Teamwork makes the dream work.
And, above all: Dare to Dream.
"You needn't feel like this disease defines you, it doesn't. It's what you do with the disease that's going to make it necessary for you to live a complete life," said Perna.
Fundraisers, grants, and community support has helped the MS Dream Center continue to grow and offer its programs and support at no charge.
It recently moved from Cranston to Warwick and is now located at 300 Toll Gate Road.