SPARTA, NJ - This past Saturday, Giant Gymnastics hosted a mini-bike Multiple Sclerosis event to raise money for team “Up Shift Creek without a Paddle,” which will be participating in much larger city-to-shore event on Sept. 28.

That 50-mile long ride, designed to help raise money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis, will be ridden by Lauren Packard, sister of Giant Gymnastics’ co-owner Jennifer Packard. Giant Gymnastics has held food drives, hosted fundraisers for cancer, and held donation drives for local animal shelters. This time, though, it’s personal. 

Two years ago, Lauren Packard suddenly lost vision in her left eye. “The vision loss, blurriness, and flashes of light I first experienced were so severe that in the initial weeks I could barely see, even with my good eye,” explained Packard. “Despite long and scary treatments and a bumpy road to recovery, my vision remains permanently damaged.”

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This loss of vision is often the first sign of MS, and Lauren has been through numerous screenings since then to watch for the disease. “My doctors still have not diagnosed me with MS, and maybe never will, but the risk is still there, so the scans, testing and screening will continue,” she said.

The bike ride that Giant Gymnastics held raised $220 towards Lauren Packard’s goal of $1,500.

Gymnasts and their families were invited to ride around White Lake Park in Sparta, just up the road from the gym, for a $10 donation. After the ride, everyone was invited back to the gym for bagels, water and an hour of open gym to play as their thank you for their donation.

Jennifer Packard was pleased with the turnout. “It wasn’t just that one kid, but whole families participating, even in the open gym.  It’s so great to see the families supporting each other.” 

There is still time to donate to team “Up Shift Creek without a Paddle.”  You can visit either their Hackettstown or Sparta locations to make a donation in person or you can go online to http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/CONQUER.