Annual MS Bike event raises tens of thousands of dollars

Cyclists wait at the start line of the 2019 Northern Saskatchewan MS Bike. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Over 350 cyclists from 57 teams combined to raise almost $250,000 for MS research and supports Saturday.

The 19th annual MS Bike event was held in Prince Albert National Park. The event raised $247,923.80 and saw 365 cyclists and about 60 volunteers get together to support the cause.

The MS Bike event is held twice a year in Saskatchewan with Avonlea hosting the southern event and Waskesiu holding the northern one.

According to a press release, the fully-supported cycling event aims “to help change the future of multiple sclerosis (MS).

“In this one-day tour, cyclists will come together to conquer their personal challenges, celebrate their collective acts of greatness and join the fight to end MS.”

Money raised through the event goes towards research into causes and risk factors, treatments for progressive forms of MS, translational research, scholarships, stem cells, vitamin D, diet and exercise. It also supports a variety of programs and services that help people living with MS to effectively manage and cope, programs that help those who support those with MS and advocacy work lobbying for more flexible income and employment supports for Canadians affected by MS, caregiver supports, coordinated care and more government investment into MS research.

Wanda Bouchard, the 2019 MS Bike Ambassador, was diagnosed with MS in 1987.

“My MS made me a fighter and I became passionate about not allowing this disease to control my life,” she said in a press release.

“I wanted to do my part to raise funds to support MS research, so I joined MS Bike. I’m entering my 26th year riding in the MS Bike, and during that time my team has raised approximately $400,000.”

The top individual online fundraiser from Saturday’s event was Lucas Kessler, who raised $14,587. The top team was the Remyelinators, who pulled together over $33,000.

Rebecca Snider, senior coordinator of development, was at the start line as onlookers hooted and hollered and greeted the riders as they began the event.

“it’s a pretty impactful day at the start line when you have 400 people all come together to support one cause. It’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of,” she said.

A lot of the cyclists and teams had participated before. Several of the teams boasted growing numbers.

“Most people, once they try it once, they get hooked on the atmosphere,” Snider said.

Riders young and old took part in the two distances, a 50 km main route and a longer, 75 km challenge course.

Cyclists participate in the 2019 MS Bike event in Waskesiu. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Snider explained why people were so eager to help out.

“Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world,” she said.

“Chances are you know someone who lives with MS. It’s a great way to support those diagnosed with MS and their families, and just show them a community of support while raising funds to support research, programs and services. It’s the best of both worlds.”

MS is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, and the unpredictable effects last for the rest of their lives.

On average, 11 Canadians are diagnosed with MS every day.

Across Canada, more than 9,000 cyclists are expected to participate in the 20 one and two-day MS Bike tours that take place between June and September. For more info, or to donate, visit msbike.ca