When Lisa Rasor put out the call this summer for volunteers to ride as a team in the MS 150 bicycle tour, she got a better response than she expected.
"I was surprised," said Rasor, a Lawrence resident who will ride in her fifth MS 150. "You need a minimum of five to participate. Once we had five, I thought we were done, because I've never had more than five."
Instead, a total of 13 people Â mostly employees and volunteers at Headquarters Counseling Center Â are on Rasor's team, Blazing Saddles.
The team has been training for several months. On a recent weekend, members of Blazing Saddles did 37-mile rides twice in two days, on a route that took them to Vinland, Eudora and back to Lawrence.
"We haven't had all 13 of us ride together yet," Rasor said. "But we've had seven. I don't know if we'll get all 13 of us together for a training ride before MS 150."
The MS 150 is a two-day, 150-mile cycling tour Saturday and Sunday to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The tour begins in Topeka, includes an overnight stop in Lawrence, and ends in Perry. Each rider must raise a minimum of $200 to participate.
"It's our primary fund-raiser of the year," said Sheri Daudet, manager of the Eastern Kansas Branch of the society. "It's very significant for us."
The ride raised $154,000 in 2001. Organizers hope to raise $165,000 this year, and expect 350 cyclists will participate.
More than 200 volunteers are expected to support the riders with rest stops stocked with food and beverages every 10 miles along the route.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from mild numbness in the limbs to paralysis or loss of vision. Most persons with multiple sclerosis are diagnosed in their 20s or 30s.
Because people are often hit in the prime of their careers, Daudet said, they often take a financial blow that society must ease.
"There's a lot of cost to society," she said, "as well as the individual themselves."
There is no cure for the disease; in fact, scientists are still stumped about the cause, although there's speculation that the condition is triggered by a virus or an "environmental" cause.
Sixty percent of the money raised by the ride will stay in eastern Kansas, Daudet said, to provide direct financial assistance to people and therapeutic and educational programs. Forty percent goes to the national organization for research.
The money does make a difference, Daudet said, because it funds research that has led to treatments to manage the disease.
"Really, probably until 10 years ago, MS wasn't even a disease we could treat," she said. "It was debilitating so that people couldn't go to work, raise a family or do any of the things that make life enjoyable.
"By continuing to do the research we do, the hope is we can come up with a treatment to stop the disease or even cure it."
Which is part of why Rasor rides.
"The first time I did it, it was mostly for the ride," she said. "Since then, I've kept doing it because it's a good cause Â and a good challenge."
There are benefits aside from raising money for a good cause, she said.
"Being able to be part of a team and getting to know people better by biking together, that's been really neat," Rasor said. "Also, it's an incredible rush when you go to the start line and there's 300 bikers there and you're all doing it for pretty much the same reason. That's a neat thing to experience."