For Krissie Druen, the Bike MS Kansas City Ride, which arrived in Lawrence today, is personal.
Her husband, Jimmie, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the brain and spinal cord, in April 2007. She’s been riding Bike MS and doing other MS events ever since.
“I want people to know how much their support means, no matter how they support,” she said.
This is the third year for the two-day bicycle ride to stop in Lawrence, said Allison Ihm, development manager for the National MS Society Mid-America chapter. Bikers started Saturday morning in Olathe at the Garmin headquarters, rode to Lawrence and will spend the night here before heading back at 7 a.m. Sunday.
This year, more than 2,000 riders raised about $1.3 million for MS research and support, said Judy Oberheu, program manager for the National MS Society Mid-America chapter. That’s the bulk of the $1.8 million raised by the entire Mid-America chapter, which includes rides in Missouri, Nebraska and Wichita. Oberheu said most of the funds go to research into stopping the progression of the disease and eventually finding a cure. The money also funds programs to help MS patients through education about new medicines or therapies and to connect them to support groups and other patients.
“We want to find a cure for MS, but we also need to treat the symptoms now,” Oberheu said.
Riders pay a $50 registration, then must raise a minimum of $200 to ride. Some Kansas City area companies form teams, but a lot of participants ride individually or in groups of friends, Oberheu said. Bill Kennedy, of Manhattan, raised $11,000, making him the sixth highest donor this year. Kennedy, 71, has been riding Bike MS for 16 years. When he started, he didn’t know anyone with MS; he did it more as a personal challenge.
“I read a brochure that said, ‘Can you bike 150 for someone who can’t?’” he said. “I thought I would give it a try.”
Cyclists starting in Olathe can choose a 36.8 mile short route, 72.8 mile traditional route or the 102.9 mile “century” route to Lawrence. On the second day, cyclists can either bike 36.8 or 66.9 miles.
Before her husband got MS, Druen said she wasn’t much of a cyclist, but in the past few years she’s developed a fondness for the sport.
“Riding your bike for extended hours doesn’t seem like fun, but the crazy thing is, it is fun,” she said.