MONMOUTH — This weekend, Monmouth will see an increase in its population size as around 600 bicyclists from all over Oregon come together for a weekend of cycling and raising money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis.
The weekend-long event, one of many sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, begins in Monmouth on the Friday evening, with cycling routes all over the Monmouth/Independence areas, and ends Sunday afternoon. Participants can ride anywhere from 19-mile routes to 100-mile routes. All routes are fully supported with rest stops, on-route technical support and a ride back to the start line if needed.
To participate in the ride, individuals must raise a minimum of $250.
All of the proceeds go toward finding a cure for MS.
There is one thing all riders who participate in Bike MS have in common: They want to see a cure for the disease.
Kevin Mathers, who lives in Lebanon and has been participating in the bike ride since 2011, first as a volunteer then as a cyclist, rides for hope. His wife, Stephanie, who also rides, was diagnosed with MS in 2008.
“I ride for donations. Donations equal research. Research equals hope,” Kevin said.
In 2017, Kevin raised $2,350, and the Willamette Valley Bike MS Chapter raised $675,000.
Kevin also rides to support the friends he has made through this ride, many also have MS.
“Over the years, because of MS, I have met some great people that I am now privileged to call friends, and who, like my wife, live with MS.”
According to the NMSS website: “Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.”
Around 2.3 million people globally are living with the disease, with 200 new cases diagnosed each week, the website said.
Stephanie, who has been living with MS since 2008, rides for a cure.
“I ride, first and foremost, because I was diagnosed with MS in 2008,” Stephanie said. “I enjoy the camaraderie with other fellow cyclists. Specifically, those who ride with MS. The Oregon Multiple Sclerosis chapter is like a huge family to myself and my family, and they are the backbone of this fundraiser. This fundraiser is specifically for research to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, and I want to be a part of it. Plus, I love to ride; it gives me an opportunity to do what I love, hang out with really cool people and help fund a cause that is very close to my heart,” she added.
Since receiving her diagnosis, Stephanie has had to readjust her life, including switching to an electric bike to assist with pedaling, since she no longer has feeling below her left knee.
“When I was diagnosed with MS, my two girls were ages 8 and 10. Life changed not only for me and Kevin, but it also changed for my girls,” Stephanie said. “Many of the activities that we had engaged in came to a halt. We had to learn as a family when it was time to take a break from activities so mom could rest.”
Over the years, Stephanie has raised $5,000 toward finding a cure. Her daughters, Sarah and Emily, have also participated in the bike ride, with Sarah riding and volunteering, and Emily volunteering.
It’s a family event for the Mathers, and for many others.
The community steps up to help with this event, including the Monmouth Bicycle Shop.
“We are helping out at the start of both rides Saturday and Sunday as well as on route support,” owner Brendon Gallant said. “Support for us means light mechanical repair, repairing flat tires, making sure people have helmets, and ensuring general bicycle function for the ride.”
While the shop runs on a tight budget, Gallant said he and his partner are always looking for ways to get out in the community and help out.
“Being a recent startup in place of an existing bike shop, we are eager to get our hands involved in community events,” Gallant said. “Being on a tight budget we often can’t make monetary contributions, but we do have time and, most importantly, passion. By offering the latter two, we’re able to get involved in events, help them go smoothly (on the bicycle side) and get more recognition for our new venture.”
To donate or for more information: www.nationalmssociety.org. Donations will be accepted through the end of August.