Why do I ride?
It all started more than 19 years ago. I remember when a friend and client came in for a meeting… With a cane. He was moving like a 90-year-old. He was 50. His speech had been compromised. His balance iffy. We went for lunch as we often did to catch up. It had been months since our last face-to-face. I had no idea. No idea of the trials and tribulations that he had had to face imprisoned in his own home with a spouse who I am sure cried herself silently to sleep each night. Alone, staring in the mirror, wondering how his body could have abandoned him like this. The frustrations of two hours to dress and always the fear of "what's next?".
I could say that I ride because MS is a horrible disease, that it's debilitating.
I could say because it's frightening to see it down a friend.
I could say it is because I want to help others.
I could say because I'm scared that it could happen to me or someone in my family.
I could say because it affects Albertans disproportionately to other Canadians and certainly, Northern districts disproportionately to other people in the world. It's up to us to unlock the mysteries of our disease.
I could say because I feel like I could actually make a difference.
They would all be true statements.
19 years of biking for MS, I'm tired. I want to quit, I'm 67 this year– But every year I sign up again. The people I used to ride with have all drifted away except for one. He and I commiserate with each other at the beginning and end of our rides. Share a beer and stories of all of the trials we have experienced over 19 years or more of cycling for MS.
So despite the rain, hail, the snow, the merciless wind, the lightning, the piercing cold, intermixed are the few years where it is truly a sunny and beautiful ride. You remember all of it. The pain and suffering disappears and you remember the good parts.
You ride because you can. Because the pain and discomfort you feel, is nothing compared to an MS suffer. Because those dollars you raise, you believe does make a difference. You ride and fundraise because you belong to humanity and we have to find a way to stop this suffering. There must be hope, there must be a way.
I started out because of my friend. It was good exercise, like running in a marathon. I originally thought it was about me getting some real challenge and a great exercise and the fundraising was just part of the motivation. But, it shouldn't be all about me. This Ride was important, this Ride had a bigger purpose.
The "challenge" continued to be my focus. I didn't really get it. And then I listened at the end of Day 1 to some of the MS sufferers. They weren't professional speakers, they were ordinary folks. They struggled to walk up to the microphone, they struggled to find their voice and tell their story. Their personal thoughts and fears, their story. What it means. What it meant to them to have hope and to have we fundraisers out there ...because of them. For them. How could you not tear-up at their courage and determination?
That's when I decided that I personally could do better and that these folks needed me to fundraise. So I did, I thought about how I could entice more friends to buy into this quest. How I could make them part of my team, how I could help them feel we are doing this together.
Heaven knows there are more than enough great causes out there to support and you can't support them all. Somehow, I made them habitual supporters. I hounded them mercilessly. And I got them on board. We started at $300 per year which was the minimum and then moved onto $1000 followed by $1500 and then $2000 and we just kept blowing past the markers until we were over $10,000 in the top 10 and that's where we stayed- every year.
Why? Because we could, we did.
I am sure that I pushed some friends out of their comfort 'giving ' zone. I developed a blog where I spoke about all of the amusing and challenging issues that I encountered during the course of the ride. For some of my donors, the more I hurt, the more they were prepared to donate. For others they just felt like they wanted to help . So they gave and they gave.
The other thing that we did was to encourage more and more friends to come out and ride on behalf of MS and to gather their friends. This pile-on effect has resulted in many thousands of dollars of additional donations that would have been impossible from the limited number of people I know. We all know people and those people know other people.
My next Objective was to keep them engaged as donors and coming back each year because fundamentally we all want to help and we get a huge personal boost from making a difference.
So in my personal experience with MS, I went from my first one friend, to a neighbour at the end of the street stuck down in his 40s, to a brilliant minded friend and artist who today struggles to find any words to express his thoughts and feelings and his amusing anecdotes, to a friend of more than 40 years who has also hit the MS wall in her 50s and struggles to deal with her day-to-day life.
So, yes, MS is personal to me. Too many friends have suffered and we need to make it stop.
You too, can find a way to make a difference, please donate! Thank you for caring.