Our New Support Group Leaders

Meet the New SGLs of 2016: The Foundation Welcomes Four Volunteers At the heart of the RLS Foundation community is a network of volunteer...

Meet the New SGLs of 2016: The Foundation Welcomes Four Volunteers

At the heart of the RLS Foundation community is a network of volunteer support group leaders who give time, knowledge and a compassionate ear to others who struggle with RLS. Roughly 80 individuals across the U.S. and Canada provide support through face-to-face meetings, phone calls and the Foundation’s online discussion board.

The RLS Foundation is pleased to welcome four new support group leaders this past year! Read more about Karen, Charlotte, Bob and Sheila in their testimonials below. To all who volunteer with the Foundation, we thank you!

Shiela Richards (Ventura/San Fernando Valley, California)

What does “insidious onset” mean? Why am I having this excruciating pain within 5-15 minutes after I get into bed but I don’t have the pain during the day? Is this related to the plantar fasciitis that I have had for the past 6 years? The pain is keeping me up at night, I am walking the floors and stretching to get some relief from my pain which is a 15 on a 1-10 pain scale and I can’t remember my passwords at work because I am so exhausted!!! Oh yes, peanut butter has become my comfort food at 1:15 a.m.

This is where I was approximately 3 years ago when my symptoms of excruciating pain in my legs, sleepless nights, mood swings, exhaustion without being able to sleep and forgetfulness began. After trying to remedy the symptoms myself with over the counter meds and supplements, exercising more, then exercising less, I began searching for “a diagnosis” so that I could get “a cure or just relief”.

I started with my internist who did blood work, which led to an endocrinologist for Graves’ disease (Hyperthyroidism) which could cause leg pain. Blood work also showed low Ferritin (iron storage) and Hemoglobin which resulted in a visit to a gastroenterologist who ruled out internal bleeding and resulted in a nightly dose of iron. Next was a visit to a neurologist for an EMG to rule out any issues coming from my low back. Negative!!! Lastly, I was referred to Dr. Ronald Popper who is a Sleep Disorders Specialist in Thousand Oaks, Ca who understands RLS and has helped me tremendously with simple remedies so that I can sleep 7-8 hours/night, control my nighttime pain and regain my happiness and optimism.

My personal life was also being affected by this “insidious onset” of pain. My husband tried to be understanding and was concerned when the Ambien that I was taking was helping with the pain and sleep but was making me into a person that he didn’t know anymore. My mother thought I was exercising too much and not understanding that exercise had always been “my therapy” in the past. My social life was affected because I was too tired to make plans for any social get together beyond a few hours.

My husband refers to me as “the cheerleader” because I have a talent of offering a listening ear to others, coming up with a “plan” and helping to implement “the plan”. I felt that I was changing and I desperately needed “support” of my own. I contacted the RLS foundation to learn that there wasn’t a support group from Long Beach to Santa Barbara (approx. 97 miles). This is when I realized that if I need support, then there are other people within 97 miles that could benefit from a support group that understands the symptoms, can talk about them freely and can help each other with direction and eventually successes. After I was accepted by the RLS Foundation as a group support leader I connected with Caroline Chamales who is the group support leader in San Diego and attended her support group which met at Scripps in La Jolla. I walked out of the 1 ½ hour meeting feeling energized and hopeful.

Not only did I learn a tremendous amount about RLS presented by a neurologist and sleep disorders specialist but I met some extraordinary members of the population that suffer with RLS and some of their family and friends who came to show support. The experiences that I had for 3 years were nothing compared to those that had been suffering for possibly 10, 20, 30 and yes 40 years but were determined to find relief and eventually a cure for RLS.

I am thankful to Chiara at the RLS Foundation for giving me the opportunity to gather a group of people together who experience RLS with Medical professionals who understand the life changing symptoms and treatments for RLS. There was a reason that Caroline Chamales came into my life at the right time to share her positive experiences with the RLS Foundation and their outreach program.

Karen Rodier (Ashburn, Virginia)

I first attended a restless legs syndrome (RLS) support group about two years ago while living in Pennsylvania. I traveled over an hour each way to join the group to learn more about my disease. I was impressed with the other participants and the leader’s commitment. I decided then that I wanted to try to bring together people with RLS once we settled in Virginia.

Several months later in Virginia, two women attended the first support group meeting I held. Neither of these women had ever spoken with anyone else with RLS, despite having suffered with RLS for many years. During the meeting, we briefly discussed our RLS journeys, shared tips we had learned, and heard an educational program on augmentation developed by the Foundation.

The meeting was not about me, the person/leader, but about the group’s interest in people with RLS and the Foundation’s commitment to bringing individuals together so that no one feels alone. We are all trying to manage our conditions the best we can.

Meeting others with RLS is an important way to give ourselves the gift of time, talk with others and examine new strategies to try. As a restless legs syndrome support group leader, I don’t have all the answers, but I know whom to call and how to direct participants to the many written and online resources at the Foundation. My hope is to offer more support group meetings in my area so that individuals with restless legs syndrome will know, “You are not alone”!

Bob Harnett (Chicago, Illinois)

I had always had trouble falling asleep and every once in a while I would find myself tossing and turning trying to get comfortable in bed. However about five years ago my symptoms got much worse. My doctor suggested I take a sleep study, which I did and the results showed that I suffered from sleep apnea, insomnia and restless legs syndrome (RLS).

My reaction was WOW three strikes, and then I thought OK well what do I need to do to get cured? Like a lot of people I then found out how little is known about sleep disorders and that there are no cures. But there are ways to manage each of these aliments.

For me I find that my RLS symptoms are by far the worst impediment to falling asleep and the problem I worked on the most with my doctor to manage.

Since we live in the internet age I began searching for information related to RLS and that is when I came across the RLS Foundation website and began to learn more about RLS from a reputable source.

When first diagnosed I think people tend to think they are the only ones with a particular problem, so just knowing that there is a support group available is reassuring. I found that the RLS Foundation was providing useful information that was matching the information I was receiving from my doctor. Some of the information I was finding on the WEB was not as helpful.

I had seen in the NightWalkers newsletter that there were actual support groups that held meetings and provided information and support for those who suffer from RLS. Since I live in the Chicago metropolitan area I was surprised to find out that there was not a group anywhere near where I lived.

I had thought about volunteering to become a support group leader a few years ago, but then I got busy with other things and did not fill out the application, I guess I figured well someone else will do this. This year I found out that, “no one else” had started a group in my area, and I thought well why not me? I filled out the application, and met (via the phone) the staff at the RLS Foundation. I also contacted my doctor to get his input into the idea of starting a RLS support group.

Both the RLS foundation and my doctor’s office were enthusiastic about getting a group started in the Chicago area.

I have done so other volunteer work and I have always believed that volunteering is more about supporting the organizations goals and objectives and not being the star of the show. I’d much rather be the guy who supports the guy who’s the star and not the star myself. With that in mind I think of my role as the volunteer support group leader as the facilitator for the group. I can make so calls, setup a room, set out pamphlets, and let people know about the resources available through the RLS Foundation’s website.

Charlotte Slack (Austin, Texas)

My husband has suffered from RLS since he was a child. Our daughter also has RLS, and I very much want to help them and others in dealing with this insidious disease. I can’t say how many times we have stopped on the side of the road while one or both of them had to get out to walk around. NightWalkers is the perfect name for the RLS Foundation newsletter, as that’s what many RLS sufferers do. Sometimes my husband walks more than he sleeps.

A support group is like any other gathering of people with common interests. People gather for book clubs, exercise classes, bridge, wine collecting, politics, etc. For people with restless legs syndrome, a support group offers the opportunity to be with others who share this disease. Knowing we’re not alone can be amazingly uplifting. We’ll hopefully share common issues and learn what remedies work or don’t work. Our family has been part of support groups for two other diseases, and we know how valuable they are to our spirits.

As a child, my husband’s parents took him to the doctor about the pains in his legs. The doctor said they were “growing pains” and he would be fine. He never was. Some years ago, he was driving while listening to a call-in show on the radio. He wasn’t paying much attention to the show until he heard the words “restless legs syndrome.” He nearly wrecked. For the first time, he knew that his condition had a name and that others had the same thing. He saw his doctor, who did believe him and referred him to a neurologist.

Managing RLS is a constant balancing act, but simply knowing he has a recognized disease gives him hope. The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation is our go-to source for reliable information. That’s how we learned about support groups!


We are always looking to expand our volunteer network, and to provide integral support and counsel to those in underserved areas. If you are interested in applying to become a support group leader, here are the steps:
  1. Learn more about the role by viewing the support group leader description.  
  2. Submit an application
  3. The Foundation will send references a brief questionnaire.
  4. Once reference questionnaires are returned, a volunteer manual is provided and a phone interview is scheduled.
  5. You then plan your first meeting with the support from the Foundation!
Please send your completed application to:
Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation
Attn: Chiara Corey
3006 Bee Caves Road, Suite D206
Austin, Texas
Or email Chiara@rls.org with your application form.

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