You seem very passionate about the National MS Society. Do you have a connection to MS?
Not a direct connection but certainly an indirect connection. Since getting involved with the National MS Society I have made many new friends there. Some are living with MS, some have loved ones with MS, and some have lost loved ones to MS. Knowing these people and seeing their commitment to finding a cure for MS helps fuel my passion.
How did you get involved with the National MS Society?
I completed my first Bike MS ride in 2003. Back then I was new to cycling and Bike MS presented a great opportunity for me to see just how far I could go on a bicycle. I had no idea what MS was or how it affected people. I had no connection. Then fast forward to 2008. My real involvement began on a cold, rainy, foggy morning in Rock Hill, SC. I was participating in a preview ride and let’s just say that things were not as well planned as I was expecting. Days later I ran into one of the MS employees. After hearing my comments about the ride she asked if I would be willing to help make it better. Since that day I have served as a co-captain on a team that raised over $106,000 in 2010, I served as the Bike MS Committee Chair for 3 years, and in 2009 I joined the staff as a part time employee handling the logistics for Bike MS. Today, I lead service day projects that help others in our community with MS and I am working as a logistics coordinator on a volunteer basis for the 2013 Bike MS Breakaway to the Beach ride.
During your 10 years of involvement with the National MS Society, what is your proudest moment? And why?
I would have to say that there are three moments that I am most proud of. The first came at the end of 2010 when I was presented with the original water color painting that Sharon Kearns “aka the Artist” painted for Bike MS Breakaway to the Beach. The painting was a whimsical road map of the 2010 Bike MS weekend and the triumphant return of Bike MS to the Carolina coast. The second moment that I am proud of happened in 2011 when I was the second highest fundraiser for the year. What really made it special was the fact that I was a staff member at the time. I raised $26,350 that year with the help of a lot of people. It was a great moment. But perhaps the proudest moment came in 2012 when the National MS Society and the Greater Carolinas Chapter presented me with the – Jeff Viscount Movement Award – for my efforts over the years. “Join the Movement” has long been a battle cry of the Society. The award is an annual award that will be given to the person each year that shows a willingness and dedication to helping others with MS.
As the Mayor of Bike town, you help promote many charity rides, what is it about the Bike MS: Breakaway to the Beach event that compels you to volunteer so many hours of your time?
My involvement with the cycling community has grown over the years. My WeeklyRides.com website, the Assault on Morrow Mountain ride series, and my involvement in many local advocacy efforts have all played a big part in that growth. Over time what started as a joke has since stuck with the name “Mayor of Biketown”. All I can say is that I am grateful to help when and where I can. Bike MS remains a key focus for me because of the challenges and opportunities that it continues to offer me and so many others. I often tell the story of a rider that made the decision to complete his first century ride with Bike MS. He had not ridden a bicycle in years and in the beginning it showed. Persistence and training began to payoff and when the day came, he nailed it. I was working the ride that year and did not see him until the end when he came up to me with his wife and daughter to thank me. The entire family was so excited. There were tears of joy. His accomplishment meant as much to his family as it did to him. Moments of magic like this happen every year at Bike MS. How could anyone not want to be a part of that?
How does the money raised by Bike MS: Breakaway to the Beach directly help those impacted by the disease?
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects more than 14,000 people alone here in North and South Carolina. MS as it is called stops people from moving. Basic movement becomes painful and impossible. Daily chores and simple task become overwhelming. The money we raise is used in part to help fund national research. In just the last two years new oral drugs have been introduced as a result of that research. Can you imagine what it must be like to give yourself a painful shot every day? Or better yet, can you imagine not having to do that because the drugs you need are now available in a pill. The money is also used locally to fund emergency assistance, programs for people with MS, and other services. One of my favorite local activities is called “Service Day”. We gather a team of volunteers and meet at the home of someone with MS. We go to work doing anything and everything you can imagine from raking leaves to building shelves. It is easy to get behind on simple things when you are dealing with the unpredictability of MS. It is easy to get overwhelmed so you can imagine the joy when they see this team getting them caught back up. The Service Day program is a very rewarding program for everyone involved.
What advice do you have for someone who is not sure they can complete the event?
Ha! Everyone finishes Bike MS Breakaway to the Beach. I remember my very first Bike MS ride. The first day was 65 miles from Rockingham to Florence. I had never gone that far and when the ride started I wasn’t sure I could. But not only did I make the first 65, I followed it up with 80 the next day to Myrtle Beach. Back then I walked away from Bike MS thinking I could ride around the world on a bike. Today I still feel the same way. That’s the really cool thing about Bike MS. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a weekend warrior the sense of accomplishment is always the same. So my advice is to get registered and ride. If you have always wanted to do a long distance destination bicycle ride then this is your chance. No matter which route distance you select you will always experience a level of safety, support, and accomplishment that you just can’t find on any other ride.