Keeping hope alive on MLK Day


ST. PETERSBURG – Fibromyalgia is a debilitating disease that disables its sufferers, preventing them from completing even the smallest daily tasks. Many go undiagnosed for years leading to additional health issues.

Valeria Dorn is a longtime sufferer and founder of the Keep Hope Alive foundation. For years, she has been spreading the word across the city about how to live with fibromyalgia and find freedom from the mental anguish caused by the disease.

“I refuse to give up,” said Dorn. “If it’s going to take me out, I’m going to go out spreading the word.”

For the past nine years, Dorn has held monthly meetings to spread awareness of what to expect if diagnosed. High blood pressure, kidney problems and pain are some of the common complaints from sufferers, but there is little information out there on dealing with it.

Dorn was looking to find more ways to make others aware of the disease and to create a calming event to hallmark hope. She applied for the MLK Day of Service grant and as a first-time recipient, Dorn is excited to have a project to get her message across.

She came up with the idea of painting butterflies from “Painting with a Twist” type of advertising and pictures she had seen in advertisements for fibromyalgia medicine. “I said, ‘What can I make out of this?’”

She loves butterflies and has always associated the color purple with fibromyalgia.

“It represents gentleness, a soft touch, something soothing,” she stated. All positive feelings, especially for those in extreme pain.

So, the “Paint and Sip for a Cause” project was born. After approval, Dorn and her associate began to prepare, buying canvases, paint, brushes and all the art supplies necessary to make the project a success.

Jan. 20, in conjunction with the Next STEPP Life Center, Dorn plans to implement her Paint and Sip vision. Leslie Gay of Painting with a Twist will instruct participants on creating beautiful butterflies while they sip on some of Dorn’s homemade punch. A recipe she promises will entice the senses.

“I call it my healthy punch,” she explained. “I’ve been making it for years.”

The painting portion will take place at the Life Center. Walk-ins will be accepted, but seating will be limited to 30 seats so Dorn suggests calling or emailing if interested.

There will be a question box where painters will be able to submit any questions on fibromyalgia that they may have and donations will be accepted to help the Keep Hope Alive organization.

Keeping Hope Alive MLK Day, featured

On the actual day of service, Dorn and her volunteers will set up at Tropicana Field. A seating area will be available for those interested in learning about the disease. She will discuss causes, myths and coping strategies for sufferers and hopes that even those not currently diagnosed with the disease will stick around and learn about it.

She also has brochures ready to distribute filled with important information about the symptoms and myths associated with the disease in case people stay for the presentation.

Dorn plans to hold multiple sessions where she will speak about all the causes of fibromyalgia, the help that is out there for sufferers and the support Keep Hope Alive provides.

“I’ll just cover a lot of stuff, and I will hand out a lot of brochures filled with information,” said Dorn.

If interested in the Paint and Sip portion of the event, contact Dorn at (941) 451-3305 or email her at

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