This October, two organizations come together to help put an end to one devastating disease.
As light breaks in East Gwinnett, a flock of cyclists takes off from Grayson Elementary School. Their wheels whirr as they quicken speed, heading into Walton County for their Saturday ride.
Witness to Fitness, a faith-based ministry, and Grayson Cycling Club meet for a total of four weekly training rides, and as October approaches, they hope to recruit members to join their team —“GCC Witness Through Fitness United” — for the 2019 Bike MS Peach Ride taking place from October 12-13 in LaGrange, Ga.
The two-day cycling event is a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis, an incurable disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information to and from the brain and often causes paralysis, vision impairment and muscle weakness, among other symptoms.
Bike MS is the largest cycling fundraiser event in the world, and for the Peach State chapter, GCC Witness Through Fitness United hopes to raise $25,000 to end Multiple Sclerosis. With a goal like that, the more members they recruit the better.
Tom Tedrow is the team captain, and this will be his thirteenth year riding for multiple sclerosis. For him, the cause is a personal one. “My wife’s cousin [Gwen Camp] passed away after battling MS for many years,” Tom says. Tom shares he will be riding for Gwen, as in years past.
Bike MS is the official cycling fundraiser component of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and for many, it is a first-time introduction to the MS community. As Tom and the others began sending emails, they were surprised to see how many of their neighbors, friends, and acquaintances it had affected. “Some of the people we’d reach out to would thank us because they had a friend or family member suffering MS,” Tom said.
With 35, 60, and 100-mile routes, the course provides options for both beginning and advanced cyclists. And after the day’s ride, teams will enjoy meals and each other’s company within their respective Team Village.
“It’s a beautiful route,” said Cliff Hagan, a Witness to Fitness board member. Like many of his teammates, Cliff loves a good challenge and will be completing 132 miles over the weekend. He credits God with saving his life and fitness for improving its quality, allowing him to “enjoy events like these with others.”
Encouraging members and newcomers alike to take steps to live a more active lifestyle, Cliff and other Witness Through Fitness organizers host a series of training and performance-based events like “Couch to 5K”, which benefits the South East Gwinnett Co-Op while providing a kick start for newcomers to get off their couch and get in shape.
With such aligned missions, Witness Through Fitness and Grayson Cycling Both are born allies, or as Cliff says, “We’re a family. And like any family, we have our squabbles, but we look out for each other. After a while, people will start asking where you’ve been if you miss a day. They hold you accountable, because some days, I don’t feel like going, but I’ll go to catch up with everyone.”
The group rolls out from Grayson Elementary school every Saturday at 7 a.m., and on Mondays and Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. On Sunday, they leave at 2 p.m. from First Baptist Church of Loganville — a spectacle of neon jerseys on wheels.
For Cathy Minter, who will be joining the 2019 Bike MS Ride, fitness and service are components woven into the very fabric of her life. “I love serving others,” she shares, and her empathy is evident in her ability to step up and make newcomers feel welcome in the group. On one of the weekly rides, which typically range in distance from 25-50 miles, it’s common to hear members cheering each other on as they near the finish.
Philippians 4:13 is a verse the Witness through Fitness crew often share; it states, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” For religious and secular athletes alike, it’s a testament to the benefits group fitness, where the drive is contagious, and pushing one’s limits is inevitable.
As the group prepares for the ride in LaGrange, there is another factor at play. Fundraising and campaigning aside, some cyclists feel compelled to ride in honor of those whose days of being active are effectively ended due to a debilitating disease like MS. “Just think about the people who can’t,” Cathy said.
Ultimately, team GCC Witness Through Fitness United rides to help pave the way for a cure. As their team captain shares on his personal fundraising page, “It is my hope that through our fundraising efforts, we will be able to assist in finding a cure for this disease.”
Sponsors can donate by visiting nationalmssociety.org and searching for the “GCC Witness Through Fitness United” fundraising page. Meanwhile, those interested in joining the team can reach out to Cliff by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As Cliff says, “In life, you’ve got to be a goer or a sender. Be one or the other. Ultimately, be both.”
Writer’s Note: In full transparency, I was not immune to the enthusiasm of this group, and they have successfully recruited me to join them for the 2019 Bike MS Peach Ride — so the story continues . . .