Plano Star-courier > News
Going the distance: Plano mom pedaling for a cure
Photo courtesy of National Multiple Sclerosis Society Ė Organizers are expecting close to 3,000 participants this yearís 25th annual Bike MS: Samís Club Ride, presented by Pure Protein, on May 5 and 6.
Plano resident Natalie Matthews has a secret weapon for conquering a 150-mile bike tour: a simple bandana.
But the cloth does more than just keep her head and neck cool. Tied to her handle bars, it symbolizes the reason why she and her husband, Chris, take this journey every spring.
Since their daughter, Kristen, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Natalie has participated in the annual Bike MS: Sam's Club Ride. Chris has actually been a part of the ride for the past 18 years, while this year will mark Natalie's ninth ride.
Sadly, the Matthews recently received news that Kristen's MS has progressed to a secondary stage. Her doctors have taken her off her medications saying there is nothing more they can do. Despite this news, Natalie is confident that while doctors may not be able save her daughter's life, she hopes this ride and the money and awareness it raises will facilitate research that, hopefully, will make it in time to save the lives of others.
"I don't see anything in the future helping her," Natalie said. "I think that what's been done has helped her but I don't see how anything is going to be marketed or researched in time to help her, personally. She should be the one doing the ride instead of me; she should be the one who's capable. "
Thousands will join the Matthews for this year's ride on May 5 and 6. Participants will pedal more than 150 miles in the two-day ride from Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco to the Texas Motor Speedway. The entire tour traverses eight North Texas cities and includes scenic views of Ray Roberts and Eagle Mountain lakes.
Once at the speedway, participants will kick off the second day of the ride with a victory lap around the inner track and ride to Decatur and loop back for the finish. Shorter, half-day routes totaling 47 miles on the first day and 30 miles on the second are also available. Eighty-one cents of every dollar donated from the event will go back to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
For the past 25 years, the Sam's Club Ride has raised awareness and funds for the society, which set a $2.1 million fundraising goal this year and raised $1.9 million from last year's event. The organization funds research for multiple sclerosis and provides support services for Texans living with the disease.
Since the ride began, eight FDA-approved medications have been developed and doctors have gotten closer to developing a less invasive pill to address the symptoms of MS, said Frank Timmons, vice president of the National MS Society's North Texas chapter.
"Twenty-five years ago there was nothing to treat and slow the progression of this disease," Timmons said. "We've gone from a scenario where the question people living with MS was, 'how soon until I'm going to live in a wheelchair?' to possibly never having to face that challenge. We keep making leaps and bounds in slowing it more and more."
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms of MS vary depending on where the disease occurs in the brain. Approximately 56,000 Texans are living with disease, which has affected roughly 4.5 million people in the United States, Timmons said.
Generally, more women are diagnosed than men, although the disease tends to be more progressive in the latter. There is currently a lot of research going on to determine why this is, as well as why it hits many people when they hit middle age, Timmons said.
"It can be a really difficult disease, but we are in a really good position now in which we can identify and treat it very early and slow it to a crawl, which is excellent," he said.
The MS ride is a critical fundraising event for the society, as it funds roughly 80 percent of its annual operations, said Justin Martin, development manager for the North Texas chapter. Having grown from a little more than 100 participants in its first year to approximately 3,000 at last year's event, Martin said the ride has been a grassroots movement, spreading awareness by word of mouth and by connecting cyclists with clients whose lives have been affected by MS.
"The minimum age to ride is 12 and our oldest rider is 82, and we have everything in between," Martin said.
Organizers spread awareness for the ride's cause is by linking up cyclists to the people who they are riding for. With only approximately 20 to 25 percent of the riders being those who have a loved one suffering from MS, one of the chapter's challenges is making sure the remaining 80 percent hear their stories.
One way in which this is done is by the cyclists riding with a bandana, on which a client has written a personal message for them to carry with them throughout the ride.
"On day two, the riders then get to meet up with their champion," Martin said. "It's great bringing together a relationship [and] it drives the cyclists to raise more money because they know it's not just about the organization. We really pride ourselves in that aspect."
While the registration period is over, those interested may still sign up for the ride through May 4 for $375, which covers both the registration fee and the $300 minimum pledge requirement. People can also register at the MS Expo on May 4 from 4 -- 9 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in Frisco. For information visit www.bikemstexas.org or www.nationalmssociety.org.
Copyright © 2013 - Star Local News