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BOSTON (AP) — Former Massachusetts first lady Ann Romney is joining forces with Montel Williams and Jack Osbourne in a social media campaign to raise awareness of neurological disorders.
The three, who are all living with multiple sclerosis, are promoting the #50MillionFaces campaign, which encourages people with MS, Alzheimer's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's disease and brain tumors to share their personal stories on Twitter and Facebook.
"The point is to let people have the opportunity to tell their stories and share them so that they don't feel so alone," Romney said in an interview earlier this week. "They're battling these illnesses that are so overwhelming and they become depressed and sometimes suicidal."
The "50 million" refers to the number of people believed to be affected by the illnesses worldwide.
The campaign, announced earlier this week, also encourages people to donate to the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases that the Romneys and their political allies help launch at Brigham and Women's Hospital in October.
The stories have already been pouring in. They are being collected at www.50millionfaces.org. Some are personal anecdotes. Others are tributes to loved ones or messages of hope for those living with the illnesses.
Romney is featured in a one-minute promotional video that includes Williams, a former TV talk-show host, and Osbourne, who is rocker Ozzy Osbourne's grown son.
"My name is Ann, and I'm one of the 50 million faces of neurologic disease," Romney says in the video. "By sharing our deeply moving stories, we can focus the eyes of the world on finding new treatments, preventions and cures through research."
Nancy Frates, the mother of Pete Frates, the former Boston College baseball team captain whose battle with ALS was the inspiration for last summer's Ice Bucket Challenge, is also featured in the clip.
Romney says she knows well the feelings of isolation and helplessness that come with neurologic illness.
"For me, having gone through it and knowing what it feels like, I don't want to have them go through it alone," she says.
Romney, 66, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998.
She's been largely symptom-free for years, but at times during her husband Mitt Romney's failed 2012 presidential bid, she dealt with exhaustion and fatigue related to the illness.
But with the campaign in the rearview, Romney says she's in good health. She's been working on a book about living with multiple sclerosis. It's due out in the fall.
"I'm really good, actually. I'm not losing functions. I'm not in a progressive state, which is really wonderful," Romney said. "The fatigue is just a part of what happens. I go and go and then I rest and rest. It's frustrating, in a way, because I used to be so high energy. But then it's like, hey, it's fine. It's fine to relax."
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