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Andi Murphy, Published August 01 2010

Biking for a cure

It was 7 a.m. Saturday in north Fargo’s Trollwood Park when 250 bike riders geared up to ride up to 100 miles around Cass County to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and local treatment in the 23rd annual Bike MS: Ride the Wind event.

About $130,000 – a minimum of $230 from each rider – was collected to help find a cure for multiple sclerosis, a currently incurable cerebral disease that disrupts the nervous system and can cause death.

Last year, Bike MS, hosted by the National MS Society, attracted 225 riders, making this year’s two-day event “bigger and better,” event coordinator Amy Hinkemeyer said.

“It’s exciting. The riders are all excited, too. They’ve been training all summer long, and they’ve been fundraising all summer long, too.”

About 60 percent of the proceeds will stay local to fund programs that help people and families afflicted with MS. The other 40 percent will go to the National MS Society for research.

“It’s really a disease that impacts the whole family,” Hinkemeyer said.

Symptoms of MS range from blindness to paralysis and can be partially treated with long-term medications. It also causes financial burden for the family to pay for medical bills, Hinkemeyer said.

Many of the riders have some sort of connection with MS because they might know or be directly related to a person who has MS.

“I have a niece, and my brother passed away from MS,” said bike ride volunteer Ruth Nelson, “so I get very involved in it, and it’s great that they do all of this.”

Companies get involved and form teams to ride up to 100 miles a day for the event, Nelson said. Riders had the opportunity to go 45, 75 or 100 miles, depending on the route.

Riders mingled for a few minutes before the start of the ride. They talked over bagels and toast, complements of community donations.

“We watched a teacher in Wyndmere go downhill with MS, and now she’s in a wheelchair,” Esther Braaten, a supporter at the event, said.

Braaten used to be a volunteer for Bike MS but has since become a fundraiser and supporter for her husband, Gil.

Gil Braaten, 81, is riding for the 17th year. He has a granddaughter who was diagnosed with MS three years ago, he said.

“I feel great,” Braaten said. “It’s for a great cause; it’s good physical fitness for me … I’m just happy to be riding for MS.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Andi Murphy at (701) 235-7311