Colorado and Wyoming have some of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the nation with 14,000 people living with the disease. Inspired to make a difference, cyclists from the region rendezvoused at the Colorado State University campus to participate in a two day bicycling event with the goal of raising $4 million for MS research.
Cyclists of various abilities road several different bike routes. The marque route is 150 miles long and runs to and from the Front Range Community College campus in Westminster to the University.
MS is a disease that attacks the central nervous system disrupting communication within the brain and from the brain to the body, according to Colorado-Wyoming MS Society Chapter President Carrie Nolan.
Nolan used the analogy of a cell phone charger to explain how MS attacks nerves cells. The protective linear of a cell phone charger’s chord represents a layer myelin that protects the nerve cell. MS deteriorates the protective myelin around the cell. Once gone, the cell can no longer communicate with other nerve cells properly, and like a phone charger with the inner copper wires exposed, it “shorts-out” and can no longer send and receive information.
“You do not die from MS,” Nolan said. “You may die of complications, but basically you live with it a very long time. We work to keep diagnosed people upward, mobile, independent and healthy. That’s what some of the money goes to keeping people, in addition to research toward a cure.”
Team Sugarbee is a bicycle team that participates Bike MS event each year. The Sugarbees were the Colorado-Wyoming’s first chapter to cumulatively raise $1 million, and were inducted into the National MS Society’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
The team draws its inspiration from CSU alumni and former faculty member Kelly Walker, who was diagnosed with MS in 1988. The team takes its name from Kelly’s childhood nickname.
“It’s beyond words,” Walker said, describing the MS Society and events like Bike MS. “It’s been so helpful.”
In addition to corporate sponsors and cycling participants, the event is made possible by volunteers.
“Part of our curriculum involves volunteering within communities,” said Christian Quijano, a physical therapy student at Regis University. “We had a long list of places we could volunteer. I saw biking and I love to bike, so I decided to check this out. It applies to me us because physical therapists do work with people who have MS. I am learning about MS, and ultimately, it’s great to give back to the community.”
This year marks 30 years since the first Bike MS event in Colorado.
“Thirty years ago, we had no drugs and no therapies,” Nolan said. “Today we have 12 FDA-approved drugs that help slow the progression of MS. We now are focused on how to restore the myelin that has been damaged and how to restore function, then one day a cure. … We are here to invest in promising research so that one day MS will stand for ‘mystery solved.'”
Collegian Reporter David Becker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mrbeckersir.