The former candidate for First Lady launches drive to unite brain disease patients

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
April 27, 2015 04:00 PM

If politics makes strange bedfellows, it might be said that disease makes united – and determined – ones.

At least that’s the case with the head-turning partnership of former Massachusetts First Lady Ann Romney, reality TV’s Jack Osbourne and former talk-show host Montel Williams.

The three, who are all battling Multiple Sclerosis, have teamed up on a social media campaign launching this week to show the 50 million faces of people coping with not only MS, but also Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors and Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS.

“We’ve all been wounded and we’re wearing our battle scars,” Romney tells PEOPLE. “But together, we can go and fight. We have a unifying force here!”

The goal of the #50millionfaces campaign by the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in her native Boston is to have those affected by these brain diseases – patients, families and caregivers alike – to share their stories on social media.

Romney, Williams and Osbourne – along with Nancy Frates, whose son Pete was the inspiration behind last summer’s ALS ice bucket challenge – get the ball rolling in a video making its debut above

“There’s so much power in one person communicating to another person about what s going on,” says Osbourne, 29, the son of Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne who was diagnosed with MS in 2012.

Adds Romney, in her interview with PEOPLE: “There’s something empowering. too, about saying, ‘I’m not alone.'”

Even though the former Massachusetts first lady (who, with husband Mitt, has shelved White House dreams for now), is working with Frates, Romney says she is realistic about the chances that #50millionfaces will catch on quite like the ice-bucket craze of Summer 2014.

Remembering with a hearty laugh how she, Mitt and so many of their 23 grandchildren soaked themselves with ice water last summer for the cause, Romney says, “You can’t really do that again, but you do want to figure out how these things catch fire. And we have the energy and passion of people who are fighting for their lives.”

The Ann Romney Center, launched last October, aims to accelerate treatments, preventions and cures for the five, complex neurologic diseases by collaborating on the science. Already, Romney says, scientists there recently discovered an important hallmark of ALS that could be a target for potential new drug treatments.

For all the awareness and research, “you want there to be a result,” says Romney. “So this is exciting.”

Watch the video above for the first ten of the 50 million faces.

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