By Jan Sullivan
Biker, Fundraiser, Pilates Instructor
The MS Great 8 Foundation
As many of my friends and Pilates students know, from Oct. 10-17, I took on a challenge that I am proud to say was one of the best experiences of my adult life. I participated in the MS Great 8 Foundation’s, bike ride from Boston to Washington, DC.
The goal of this incredible endurance test is to raise public awareness about MS, raise funds that go directly to various chapters of the National MS Society, and inspire those diagnosed with MS to take charge of their lives and not let MS control them.
Leading the charge were our two team captains from New York.
They included Mike Zimits, who was diagnosed with MS nearly 13 years ago, and Catherine Tsigakos, whose brother, Peter, was diagnosed 22 years ago. Both are committed to cycling all events of the series.
My own father, who was diagnosed with MS as a young man, lived gracefully with it for 35 years. So I am always keeping an eye out for ways that I can help out the MS Foundation.
Last Labor Day, I got my chance.
I had just come off of a summer of cycle training for a wonderful guided cycle vacation that my husband and I took, cycling in Croatia and along the Dalmation Coast. Soon after we arrived home, I noticed an article in the Evening Capital featuring two men from my hometown, who were interviewed about the fact that they were about to embark on the MS Great 8 ride.
I immediately emailed Captain Mike, and told him my cycling legs had a lot left in them, and that I was interested in learning more abut the ride. Mike was very gracious and happy to have me as rider number 16 (one of five women). And I felt thrilled and honored to be part of this team.
In fact, our team included avid bikers who ranged in age from 28 to 67, and included a diverse group of professionals—including a retired colonel from the US Marine Corps, a violinist from the Philadelphia Orchestra, a financial advisor, a church secretary, a bartender, a real estate agent, a Wall Street stock broker, and the CEO of WaWa.
Bee’s Knees Cocktail, anyone?
Since I was the last to join, that meant that I had only four weeks to raise as much money as possible for the cause. So I got busy.
With the help of friends and family, I hosted a fundraiser on Oct. 4 at Level Small Plates Lounge, a fabulous Annapolis restaurant and bar.
My friend, Janelle, who is the manager, helped spread the word and arrange a silent auction. It was a tremendous success, and more than 50 people showed up to help me reach my fundraising goal. Level’s owner and chief bartender, John Hogan, whipped up Bee’s Knees cocktails, featuring local honey from the Gorman Produce farm, in Laurel, MD. They donated 20 percent of the proceeds from every drink sold from Sept. 26 to Oct. 10.
And by Oct. 10, the first day we mounted our bikes in Boston, the entire team had raised more than $150,000, of which I raised $11,000, and counting. Our goal is $200,000, and we’ll continue to shoot for that through December 1, 2011.
Below, you’ll find excerpts from my daily journal accounting the trials, tribulations, and sheer joys of this incredible ride.
I thank everyone who offered well wishes, kind words, support, and the dollars donated to make the Maryland MS patients have some support to be able to live a happier and more mobile life. Do join me next year for this incredible event. For details, visit: MS Great 8 Foundation.
Jan’s Epic Journey
Day 1: Boston to Sturbridge, MA = 65 miles
My team and I are slowly working our way back south from the start of our journey that began in Boston, on Monday, October 10. We rode 65 miles, including 16 climbs, to Sturbridge, MA, the first day. Fortunately, it was warm and beautiful. Hopefully the weather will hold out tomorrow. I’m a little tired, but feeling pretty good.
Day 2: Rhode Island to Jewett City, CT = 60 miles
Today, we rode through Rhode Island, which was gorgeous, and after 60 miles finished up in Jewett City, CT. Then, we loaded the bikes in the box truck and rode to New London in preparation for tomorrow’s trek to Long Island. I can’t tell you how much fun we are having. Tonight, we stay in Montauk. I’m looking forward to seeing that bed in the hotel.
Day 3: Montauck Lighthouse to Islip, NY = 84 miles
We started the day at the amazingly lovely Montauck Lighthouse, and then road 84 miles. What a long day! But it was well worth it, because this evening we were treated by the Long Island MS chapter to a lovely dinner at a fun restaurant in Islip. We are about to take a van ride to Freehold, NJ, to spend the night. Tomorrow, we head to the Jersey shore. I am looking forward to seeing the ocean.
Day 4: Freehold to Beach Haven, NJ = 60 miles
We rode 60 miles today to Beach Haven, and unfortunately the weather challenged our mettle. It was foggy and misty, but the good news was that there was no hard rain. A highlight of the day came in the morning, when the NJ MS chapter held a breakfast reception on our behalf today to send us off. They also gave us a tour of their new MS residence home. It was a very heart-warming experience, and inspired everyone on the team to keep going on behalf of these incredible people living with MS.
Day 5, Oct. 15: To Mulcia Hill, NJ = 75 miles
Today, we continued heading west through New Jersey, to Mulcia Hill. This was a tough, 75-mile ride, but we are all excited knowing we’ll be passing through Delaware on our way to Annapolis tomorrow. Please come cheer us on as we pass through town in the mid-afternoon.
Day 6: New Jersey to New Castle, DE = 50 miles
After a rain out yesterday, we finished a 50-mile ride, and then vanned over to New Castle, DE. It was disappointing not to be able to bike, but it definitely was a safe and smart decision to stay out of the storm. Tonight, our team is invited to Tom and Chris Petro’s home in Malvern, PA, for a lovely reception and dinner. He is the president of Fox Chase Bank, and his sister, Terry Foley, is one of our teammates. I am looking forward to hearing speeches from the PA MS Chapter. They are so appreciative of the many PA riders in our group and the funds we have raised.
Day 7: Milford, DE to Stevensville, MD = 81 miles
Today was by far the toughest day for me, and I think that is probably true for everyone on the team. We rode in a beautiful sunny countryside route through DE, MD, and PA; however the wind was gusting up to 23 mph—mostly in our faces. Yikes. I earned my dinner tonight.
Day 8: DC here we come!
Today we spent much of our time on the B&A trail, with a stop at the Jonas Green Park to take some pictures and drink a beer! After staying at the Marriott in Annapolis last night, it was fun to get on our bikes and head for our final destination. There, we were honored with a ceremony and reception hosted by EMD Serona, which is the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and our largest sponsor. This is the company that manufactures the meds for MS patients. What a reception it was!
I thank everyone who cheered me on, and honored me with his or her donations to this important foundation. I know we all helped to make the Maryland MS patients live a happier and more mobile life. Do join me next year for this incredible event.
For more information, visit www.nationalmssociety.org.