MORRISTOWN, NJ - Cycling is a great way to lose weight, socialize and distress. But for more than 200 cyclists on Saturday, their hobby went towards raising more than $200,000 for multiple sclerosis (MS) research.
Across from Loantaka Brook Park and the sleepy horses grazing at Seton Hackney Stables, cyclists of all skill levels gathered at 475 South Street starting at 6:45 in the morning to partake in the Bike MS: Country Challenge 2016.
Bike MS started more than 30 years ago as a way to fuel fundraising for research and assistance for those who suffer multiple sclerosis. A disabling disease of the central nervous system, MS is often unpredictable and disrupts the flow of information in the brain and from the brain to the rest of the body. Worldwide, an estimated 2.3 million people live with MS.
“When I was first diagnosed, I hoped there would be a cure in my lifetime and now I believe there will be ... and I wanted to thank you all so much," Bike MS: Coast the Coast ambassador Anne Matthews said to the gathered riders before slicing the ribbon across the starting line and sending them off in the brisk September morning.
Matthews was diagnosed with MS in 2009, but has been riding with her team “Annie’s Peeps” in the Bike MS for close to 20 years.
Chris Amalfitano, chair of the emergency department at Overlook Medical Center and his son Ryan are part of Team Atlantic Health System. Together, father and son are riding because they really want to find a cure for MS.
"My wife's good friend has MS; my good friend's mother died of MS and his sister has MS and a nurse at the hospital has MS," Dr. Amalfitano said.
Hosted by the National MS Society, cyclists chose between two challenging routes that would take them through back roads, historic towns and natural scenery. The 25 mile loop started at Atlantic Health Systems corporate park, looping around the Great Swamp, through Madison and finishing at the Hanover Marriott, while the 50 mile loop takes riders in the opposite direction, around the Great Swamp, through Chester and Mendham before crossing to the finish line at the Hanover Marriott. The rides will continue on Sunday, with similar routes.
Other teams that participated this year include Ridgewood Cycle and Marty’s Reliable Cycle.
Over the course of the weekend, more than 100 volunteers gathered to help organize and maintain the event, manage rest stops and support cyclists as they go on their rides.
“A safe and supportive event is always a concern,” said Lisa Gallipoli, president of National MS Society’s NJ Metro Chapter. Gallipoli and her team plan the Country Challenge a full year before any riders set out on their routes. As well, in that year, those who wish to participate can begin their fundraising endeavors.
This year, more than 25 teams and dozens of individuals came together to ride and fundraise, with multiple groups earning top ranks in donor amounts. The NRCC raised $37,991, followed by Team Falcon ($33,225), Ridgewood Cycle ($18,980), Atlantic Health System ($16,136), Team Hertz ($13,305) just for this race. However, this year, Ridgewood Cycle hit a total of $1 million in the course of their participation over the years.
“Seeing people come out to support those living with MS is always great,” Gallipoli said. “It's wonderful seeing people support others.”
To help them reach that goal, you can sponsor a team here.