Liberty grad Sparks Internet Challenge To Raise Awareness For MUltiple Sclerosis
A viral internet pushup challenge to spread awareness about Multiple Sclerosis began with a Liberty graduate’s enduring love for his wife.
Rob Roberts was working in law enforcement and searching for what God’s plan was for his life. Before he met Dannielle, he wrote a three-page letter to God about the attributes he wanted in a future partner. When a mutual friend told him about Dannielle and orchestrated their meeting on the phone, Rob was blown away by just how clearly God answered his prayers through her.
“Not having a chance to see what Dannielle looked like …we just spoke on the phone and just her voice was amazing,” Rob said. “Our first conversation was five hours long.”
After dating for three years, the couple married in 2008. Just one day into their honeymoon would mark the beginning of the most difficult journey they would face together.
As the couple walked hand in hand around Walt Disney World, Dannielle fell silent and Rob recalled that the strangest expression fell across her face.
“I’ve known her for over three years and to all of a sudden see a look I had never seen before, it made me question what was happening,” Rob said. “From there, she couldn’t walk, and she started to have a medical emergency.”
Dannielle and Rob visited doctor after doctor looking for a reason for her illness. After an examination by a neurologist in North Carolina, they received the devastating diagnosis: Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is the body attacking its own nervous system and results in seizures, debilitating fatigue and muscle breakdown at an astonishing pace.
Rob remembered a particularly sobering moment when the neurologist pulled him aside. The bad news, the doctor said, was that his wife would never walk again. The good news was that he knew a great divorce lawyer.
“He was literally trying to persuade me to leave my wife,” Rob said. “I took my vow seriously. Until death do us part. Through sickness and in health, I’m going to be there and I told him, ‘Never leave your partner in a fire,’ and I walked away.”
In light of the slew of complications MS patients can face during pregnancy, doctors told the couple that they would have to say goodbye to their dream of being parents.
Despite this, Rob knew that God had told him in a dream that he and Dannielle would have a son named Michael. Amidst what seemed like a hopeless time, Rob did what he could to show his wife that they had what they needed the most: hope in God’s faithfulness.
“When we have faith the size of a mustard seed, God can move mountains in our life,” Rob said.
Dannielle remained resilient as she and her husband crafted a training regime complete with exercises that Rob tailored to strengthen her dexterity and mobility. One exercise encouraged Dannielle to begin brushing her teeth with one hand while writing with her left hand at the same time. This activity and others challenged her to do exercises that would isolate parts of her body for focused control.
The disease attacking Dannielle’s body affected her to the point where she had profound difficulties writing, speaking, walking and doing the basic things that are oftentimes taken for granted each day.
Dannielle’s battle with MS put her out of work for a little over 3 years.
“Despite her temporary inability to work, each and every day she would read the Bible,” Rob said. “She continued standing in faith while working hard towards her recovery.”
In light of devoting his time to being a stable support system for his wife, Rob found a new calling toward helping those in life who are facing something they feel is impossible to overcome.
“How many times are we going to wander around with the same addiction wondering when are we going to break it?” Rob said. “How many times are we going to wander around in anger and in despair and walk around with hatred? How many times are we going to do that? We have got to break away from these stumbling blocks that are preventing us from being our best selves.”
Rob made the decision to step away from his position as a federal law enforcement officer and leaned heavily into his desire to help others. He founded his own business and became a personal development coach.
He chose to name his business “Never Stumble Counseling” in light of the countless obstacles people will face in their life and the possibility to overcome them in faith.
“I know everyone is going to stumble at some point, but I want to prevent people from actually falling,” Rob said.
After four years, Dannielle not only proved doctors wrong by her continued ability to speak, walk and work again, but in 2012 she did what doctors said would be impossible: she gave birth to a healthy son named Michael.
Rob is beyond proud of his son who he called a “baby genius.” Michael’s love for learning and achieving as much as he can is a point of overwhelming joy and pride for his parents.
After hearing Dannielle describe the pain she felt in her arms due to her MS, in 2020, Rob initiated an internet challenge that would bring awareness to the underfunded and under researched disease.
Rob created what he calls a “muscle to bone” push up which targets the entire arm in an acutely painful way. The challenge involves holding this push up for one minute, leaving the participant with a pain and soreness that mimics the severe muscle pain and fatigue experienced everyday by those living with MS.
The internet challenge was taken on by professional athletes and everyday internet users who wanted to do their part in raising awareness for the disease that effects Dannielle and so many others. Many police departments, including the City of Richmond, took part in the challenge and posted videos online.
Rob says that when people take on challenges, one of the biggest keys is believing they can actually overcome it, even when their body tells them they cannot.
“It’s not just about going through the pressure of life, it’s about overcoming and making it through,” Rob said.
Rob completed his Bachelors of Science in criminal justice from Liberty in 2011 and Dannielle completed her master’s in human services with a concentration in marriage and therapy from Liberty in 2008. They live in Virginia, and Michael is now 8. Dannielle works as a financial analyst and a program management specialist.
Rob attributes the desire to do all he can to stand by his wife’s side to the love and strength he gets from God. He lives his everyday life to serve God and points every victory back to the creator that gives him the strength and wisdom to truly help others.
“It’s a blessing to be a blessing,” Rob said.
Nadia Vires is a Feature Reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @nadiavires.