Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Fight Against MS: Motion Without Limits

Cyclist Chris Crawford has been riding in the Oregon Chapter MS Bike Ride fundraiser for the last eleven years in support of his sister Bonnie and her fight against Multiple Sclerosis. As part of our commitment to corporate giving, Bishop-Wisecarver is proud to sponsor this year's bike ride in demonstration of "Motion Without Limits". Check out our Q&A [ webisode series ] with Chris on our YouTube channel, all leading up to the big ride this coming August 6th and 7th.

Enjoy this journal entry he wrote back in 2008 after his bike ride.

Our Friend Michael by Chris Crawford
MS Bike Ride: Written in 2008

"Bonnie and I met Michael at our first MS Bike Ride about nine years ago.  Michael was this cool guy who wore tye-dye t-shirts and had an easy going smile.  He reminded me a bit of a hippy which I thought was cool.  I was new to the MS thing and he stuck out.  He was a volunteer who had MS, and he seemed to be everywhere – helping all the other volunteers, handing out information, supporting the riders at a rest stop. He was always around the event, from start to finish.  He was clearly affected by MS – I remember watching him walk at a rest stop one time.  He was going across the road to get something out of his car and I thought that there was no way he would make it without falling.  He was determined to do it, and he made it back in one piece just fine.

After a few years, Michael and I had become friends.  Michael is a very devoted MS supporter, and has been involved as a volunteer and supporter in more MS Bike Rides and Walks than most people, I’m sure.  Michael is one of those people who stands at the finish Line each year and puts the medals around the rider’s necks as they cross the line.  He has put a medal or two around my neck over the years.  I even have a picture of Michael and me on my desk. 

Two years ago was the first time Bonnie and I rode together.  My sister Bonnie has MS and she is why I started riding. Bonnie met Michael at the Ride too, and also became friends with him. Now, they work at the same rest stop each year.  Bonnie’s MS symptoms are very noticeable too, but I always felt Bonnie was a bit more mobile than Michael.  Well, two years ago Bonnie decided to try riding on the back of a tandem bike with me, and we crossed the finish line together.  Bonnie was in so much pain, and so much joy for her accomplishment, that she was crying as she crossed the line.  On that very day, Michael came up to me and said, “If Bonnie can ride maybe someday I can ride too.”  His voice was so full of hope.  I smiled.  I could see the hope in his eyes.  Later it made me realize the potential impact of Bonnie’s willingness to try and her will to succeed in riding the MS ride despite her MS.  When people saw Bonnie on that bike, it was almost a miracle.  It gave many people hope that they too could do things, physical things, that they had long ago given up hope of ever doing again.  Whether or not they could ever really do it didn’t matter.

Bonnie and I rode again this year, our third year of riding together. She did great.  We had our usual challenges – including getting lost and going up a completely nasty and unnecessary hill.  We also tipped the bike over with Bonnie on the back and she crashed to the ground in pain.  She was okay, and said that nothing was going to stop her from finishing the ride.  I knew she would say that, and I was proud when she did.

The second day of the ride (Sunday) I rode solo.  It felt good and I enjoyed the ride.  When I crossed the line, Bonnie was there, as usual, putting my medal around my neck.  Bonnie did her rest stop in the morning and then left early to meet me at the finish, like she always does.  But this time, Michael wasn’t able to help Bonnie with the rest stop.  Instead, Michael rode the ride himself.  Let me say this again – our friend Michael who has pretty severe MS, rode both days of the MS Bike Ride on his own.  He spent months training on a recumbent style bike and then he did it.  Michael rode a total of 46 miles over the two days.  And on that Sunday, shortly after Bonnie put the medal around my neck, I saw Michael coming toward the finish line.  I started clapping along with so many others.  After he crossed the line, he pulled towards me and it was my honor to put the medal around Michael’s neck.  Our smiles were ear to ear.

This year, 35 people with MS rode in the bike ride, and they created a “family ride” for those that wanted or needed a shorter and flatter ride.  Our friend Michael rode that MS Bike Ride all by himself this year.

When Michael described how he felt, he said some important things. He said this was a big accomplishment, a proud moment. Riding the bike gives him a sense of freedom.  He felt on top of the world.  He gets to decide where to go and when to turn which is a feeling of control lacking in the life of people with MS. But he also said something I didn’t expect that stuck with me. Riding in the MS Bike Ride gave him a sense of self-worth.

Bonnie says the same thing.  People with MS get so caught up in the struggle, that sometimes they lose the perspective that they bring value to others.  Somehow, they begin to doubt their self-worth.  Hard to believe, but true.  So, when Bonnie crossed that line two years ago, she knew that her accomplishment would give hope to others. When Michael crossed that line today, Bonnie realized that her effort two years ago led to this tremendous accomplishment today.

Michael is giving hope to others. I bet the MS riders will top 50 next year.  How great is that?

Next year Bonnie and I will ride again.  Except this time we won’t be riding alone.  We will be riding with our friend Michael.   I am so proud of him, and of Bonnie.  This is truly the power hope can bring.

Thank you for your support and donations. Your money helps fund the medical research that leads to treatments and drugs that help strengthen people like Michael and Bonnie to better fight this terrible disease.  Your money gives them hope and with hope comes determination like you’ve never seen.  At least like you’ve never seen until you’ve seen my sister Bonnie, and my friend Michael, cross that finish line."