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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

JUST A PORTION of Karen’s 27-member crew got together for planning recently including, front row, from left, Dianna Johnston, Michelle Birney and Amanda Popolillo. Second row: Rob Esposito, Pat Grimley, Nancy Esposito and Clara Shimabukuro. Back row: Anthony Esposito, Scott Birney and Elizabeth Groenhoff. At right, Popolillo sports the crew’s logo.

Stepping Out Because They Care

By Jeanne Sager
NARROWSBURG — September 28, 2007 — Karen Birney is an inspiration. The Narrowsburg woman won’t be able to walk in the Alliance for Lupus Research Walk in the New York City on Satruday, October 13. Diagnosed with lupus at 22, the 44-year-old Birney has been hospitalized for the past month because of the disease’s devestating affects on her body.
In her stead there will be 27 walkers proudly marching around the South Street Seaport with her name emblazoned on their backs.
This will be the second go-round for Karen’s Crew, a close-knit bunch of friends and family members who are carrying the torch for Karen Birney and the estimated 1 million Americans suffering from lupus. Birney’s daughter, Michelle, is the team’s leader.
Her co-workers in the rehabilitation department at Frontier Insurance in Rock Hill are fiercely attached to her cause. Next week they’ll be doing a bake sale to up the ante for the fundraisers. With a dinner/dance in June at Our Place on the Lake, a Battle of the Bands held by local performers and paper footsteps for sale at TD Banknorth in Liberty, there’s nothing these people won’t do to get the word out about their cause and raise some money for a cure.
Asked why they’re willing to give up their free time, why they’re so steadfast, the group allowed Rob Esposito to give the simple answer. “We love Karen,” he said. She’s a woman who isn’t worried about herself. She wants a cure for her grandkids, Michelle said. “She doesn’t want to talk about how she is, she wants to know how you are,” said friend Dianna Johnston. And what kills Karen Birney about being in the hospital is not being at Michelle’s volleyball games or home baking for her friends.
Husband Scott says doctors have been able to trace Karen’s lupus back to age 11 – 11 years before she was actually diagnosed. That’s why they need to raise awareness, said friend Pat Grimley, to keep people from being sent home by mystified doctors. And more importantly, they need a cure for the chronic disease that literally turns the victim’s immune system on itself.
To help them on their path, checks made out to the Alliance for Lupus Research can be sent to P.O. Box 113, White Sulphur Springs, NY 12787. Donations can be made online at the Karen’s Crew portion of the walk site at

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