OCEAN CITY – Jeff Craighead of the Greater Delaware Valley Chapter of the MS Society, told council on June 13 that the Bike MS: City-to-Shore bikeathon will be held from Cherry Hill to Ocean City on Sept. 21 to 22.
Jeff, of Philadelphia, Pa., said he rides his bike in the event each year for his wife Pam, who has battled multiple sclerosis for 25 years. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 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.”
Pam said she’s not the “typical picture of MS.”
“I have relapsing remitting that’s become progressive to secondary, but then there’s primary progressive which is the much worse MS. Once a month my main treatment is to go to my doctor’s office and receive an infusion that takes about two hours,” Pam said.
She said while she’s sitting getting treatment, she observes a spectrum of other people with different stages of MS.
“It breaks my heart when I see people that come in with a cane that can’t navigate without that cane daily, with a walker or a wheelchair or a scooter,” Pam said. “I’m so blessed except on long distances when I have to use my cane. I just want to leave you with images of those people who benefit so much from this bike-a-thon every year when we come into your community.”
Jeff said last year, 6,000 riders participated in the Bike MS: City-to-Shore bikeathon to Ocean City, with an additional 1,000 volunteers.
Last year the Bike MS: City-to-Shore event raised $5 million, the second largest MS fundraising bike event in the country, behind Texas, Jeff said.
“That money goes to a lot of local people. There’s over 15,000 people in the tri-state area. There’s 2.3 million in the world that have MS,” Jeff said, adding there are close to 1 million people in the United States with MS. “That gives us greater resolve for this year’s ride.”
He said the chapter has a fundraising goal of $5 million this year.
“That money goes to national and it funds research and some of that research results in the medication that my wife is on,” Jeff said. “There’s also research on things like wellness; what exercise and diet and other things and their impact on MS. It’s also things like helping people get jobs and access to their homes and their offices with wheelchair ramps and things like that.”
Jeff said 22 legislatures across the country have passed laws in this past year improving the condition of people with MS.
“That advocacy is another arm of the MS Society. All of that comes from the money we’re able to raise,” Jeff said.
The ride’s entire length is 75 miles from Cherry Hill to Ocean City.
There are other starting points along the route: 45 miles and 25 miles, but each one ends in Ocean City.
“Even the people who do the 25 get the experience of crossing the finish line in Ocean City so it’s a nice thing,” Jeff said.
Jeff noted the fact that Ocean City is the finishing point is “not insignificant to a contributor to our success.”
“The fact that we can advertise and end up in the happiest seaside town in America is significant and it is a draw to this ride,” Jeff said.
Pam said many riders bike to Ocean City on Saturday and return home on Sundays.
“Come to the finish line on that Saturday and you’ll see so many families have come down to see their family members as well. They’re down here all day waiting for that biker to come and they’ll probably stay overnight,” Pam said.
Jeff noted some of the funds he raised last year came from city council. His team, the Roxborough Riders, raised $8,007, with his son Jack adding another $1,005. He distributed a fundraising letter to council for this year’s ride.
“It’s hard to believe that it was 1993 when Pam first heard that diagnosis of MS. But, thanks in part to a medication made possible through society-funded research, Pam continues to do well,” the fundraising letter states. “She still has weakness in her right leg, which worsens with fatigue.”
Teams can register for the Bike MS: City-to-Shore ride online at www.bikems.org.