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Alumni continue to spread awareness of MS through social media pushup challenge

As newlyweds, Robert (’11) and Dannielle Roberts (’08) of Richmond, Va., didn’t know the health struggles they would endure shortly after they started a new chapter of their life together.

When the couple married in 2008, Robert was working as a law enforcement officer while Dannielle pursued her M.A. in Human Services Counseling with a concentration in Marriage and Family, unaware of the onset of the disease.

“The day after we got married we were on our honeymoon at Disney World and we knew that something was wrong,” Robert said.

Dannielle was having difficulty speaking and moving. After seeking help from several doctors and specialists, Dannielle was diagnosed with MS.

Their journey would lead him to leave his career as a federal law enforcement officer and start his own business, Never Stumble Consulting. As a personal development coach, he spends the majority of his time helping people recognize that the only path in life worth pursuing is the one that leads to Jesus. He aims to help his clients find the things in their past that are holding them back from chasing after Christ without unresolved hurt dragging them down.

Robert, who earned his B.S. in Criminal Justice, says that whether it is through his life coaching or time at home serving his family around the house, he has learned that life is not about him.

“It’s about God’s glory, not our own,” Robert said.

That selfless perspective has helped Robert while he cares for Dannielle. This year, he decided to promote a challenge that simulates the muscle pain that MS warriors go through on a daily basis. The MS Push-Up Challenge has gone viral and is even making its way through Canada and various countries overseas.

“I’ve watched some amazing weight lifters try this challenge and even they came to the understanding that MS is very serious,” Robert said.

The challenge entails holding a pushup position for an entire minute in order to feel the muscle pain that is comparable to what an MS patient deals with each day. Awareness is then raised through participants posting pictures and videos of themselves attempting the challenge using the hashtag #PushUp4MS. After seeing the challenge’s success, the National MS Society has even agreed to back it.

The Roberts’ family has been a beautiful display of choosing joy each day and following Christ throughout the trials of life.

“I get so excited and passionate when I get to share our story because this is what it is all about,” Robert says. “Understanding that we are here to glorify the Lord.”

When they first learned of Dannielle’s diagnosis, they were told she would not be able to walk again, or have children.

“One of the doctors pulled me aside and said that he had some good news for me,” Robert said. “When I asked him what the good news was, he pulled out a card and said that he had a great divorce lawyer for me.”

Robert said that he would never leave his life partner and was confident that the Lord would bless them with a child one day. Despite Robert’s optimism, multiple physicians explained that considering having a baby while fighting MS was unwise.

“I went ahead and painted the nursery and bought toys for a little boy before we were even pregnant,” Roberts said. “I told my wife that we were going to have a little boy.”

In 2012, the Lord did through Dannielle what the doctors said was impossible when she delivered a healthy little boy. The excited couple named their child Michael after the archangel in the Bible.

“He was born very healthy,” Robert said. “He does well in school and loves science. It is so cool because he is extremely intelligent and all the credit for that goes to the Lord.”

Dannielle’s faith and diligence in rehab have been rewarded as she is a living testimony of just how awesome God is. The couple said they are thankful for the way Liberty helped them to further their education while Dannielle battled through MS.

“We are so grateful for the school affording us the chance to continue on with our academics,” Robert said. “We knew that Liberty had the best online programs and that is one of the reasons why we chose to enroll.”