For two days, over 3,000 riders, volunteers and advocates raised $3.8 million to go toward multiple sclerosis research.
Bike MS was a two-day bike ride, where individuals rode from Westminster to Fort Collins on Saturday, then back to Westminster to Sunday morning. Shorter and more challenging routes were also available to riders.
“Bike MS is an amazing community, bringing people who have MS and their friends and family together … it creates a community and long-term relationships that are truly supportive,” said Carrie Nolan, MS bike chapter president.
Suzanne Perschall was diagnosed with MS in 1996 at the age of 38. Although she could not participate in the ride, Perschall volunteered to support further research and be a part of the MS community.
“Today (Saturday) is a gorgeous day and everyone is in high spirits,” Perschall said. “Seeing everyone come together, those with MS and also their family and friends, is beautiful.”
According to Nolan, those with MS have a hard time finding a sense of place after they have been diagnosed. The event enables people to connect with other individuals who also struggle with daily life after being diagnosed with MS.
The event brought over 3,000 cyclists, some diagnosed with MS. Others sponsored the event and rode in teams. Collectively, 30,000 donors supported the event.
Team Toyota contributed to and sponsored Bike MS for the past four years as a team.
“Bike MS runs so smoothly because there are so many volunteers and staff members which believe in what they are doing,” said Michael Connor, a Toyota employee and bike ride participant. “At other events you ask people why they are volunteering and they just say ‘because,’ but these volunteers know the why and believe in the why.”
Seven hundred volunteers served food, offered information, took donations and ensured the event kept moving.
Money raised from Bike MS supports the MS community and specific research agendas, according to Nolan.
In individuals with MS, an antigen attacks the central nervous system and breaks down myelin (the fatty, protective substance around nerves). Over 2.3 million people live with multiple sclerosis. The disease interrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body.
Researchers are attempting to repair myelin, the broken-down fatty tissue. If the dismantled tissue is repaired around the nervous system, they can work on restoring function in areas of the body which the immune system already attacked.
“Basically, when myelin is damaged, it disconnects the flow within the brain as well as from the brain to the body … it is like when a phone charger starts to fray at the ends and then your phone will no longer charge,” Nolan said. “Researchers are looking into stem cell research of how to promote myelin growth and also looking into if people with MS maybe have too much of a natural molecule existing.”
CSU Professor Thorsten Rudroff conducts research on the initial onset of MS and the contributing factors to the weakening of muscle and fatigue.
“Significant negative impacts on activities of daily living and social participation occur due to impairments of walking, and are perceived by patients with multiple sclerosis to be one of the main contributors to a poor quality of life,” Rudroff said in an email to The Collegian. “Progressive worsening of walking abilities has been associated with weakness of one leg, which is often one of the first signs of MS.”
In the Department of Health and Exercise Science at CSU, Rudroff is looking into the amount of glucose present in the muscles of those living with MS.
“We just published a study in the Journal NeuroRehabilitation which showed that even at lower walking speeds patients with MS, with mild neurological signs, present with greater glucose uptake than that of healthy controls,” Rurdroff said.
The study notes that the more glucose in a muscle, the more fatigue. MS begins with deterioration and breakdown of muscles due to this increase of glucose. This could explain symptoms like fatigue upon diagnosis of MS, and difficulty walking.
CSU is an at-large sponsor, participating since 2007, both hosting the event and the VIP tent while sponsoring other events.
“No matter who comes to our events, they always leave having made a connection, which in the MS community means people may lead a little less fearful of a life,” Nolan said. “They will find a position of strength.”
Collegian Senior Reporter Josephine Bush can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.