Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rain Rain Go Away

This year’s Motorcycle Ride was great fun, and quite a challenge. I was thrilled to join my fellow MS Camp Volunteers Cari and Steve for this years ride. We had a great time preparing for the ride Friday evening. They spent the night with Steve, myself and Henne and Fargo, so we would get a fresh start Saturday morning.

My biggest challenge Saturday was deciding if I would ride. Not having that much experience put in on a motorcycle was one thing. The forecast for rain added to why I was uneasy. Those watching the news this weekend, know about the rainy conditions in southern MN. I was going to make a decision at the start at the Minnesota state capitol. Despite good weather reporting, good judgement, no rain gear, and some other folks saying don’t do it…..I was going to do it. Cari and Steve also had to this date when they rode together, good weather karma. She said when ever they have rode before together, they have not ever gotten wet. What is the worst that could happen?

About 40 minutes into the ride, we did get our rain. There was no, getting ahead of it, going around it, or just being lucky. The chemistry of the third rider, me, must have messed up the “no rain’ karma possessed by Steve and Kari.

Everyone of us riders in the River Road Run are safe. Despite the rain, flash flooding, wet conditions and damage done over the weekend in Winona, MN and the Lacrosse, WI area I did learn a few things

In a couple of weeks, I will be following up to everyone with a copy of my Ambassador of the River Road Run Speech. I have received many accolades from independent sources that I was inspirational, motivating, and upbeat. So I am proud to have been successful as ambassador for the MS Society. Thanks again to everyone for all of your support.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ambassador Speech MS River Road Run 2007

As you know, a motorcycle ride can be a journey unto itself. But hopefully by now, you also realize that participating in the River Road Run is also quite a journey. Yet, I’m here to tell you about my personal journey, not only with you on this ride, but also with the devastating disease of MS.

Five years ago, I spent a weekend with the Motorcycle Riders Safety course just to get my motorcycle license. I was excited to finally meet this goal, and just get on and go.

Then, four years ago, I was diagnosed with MS. While I had no choice, I was about to start a very different journey – one that I was not looking forward to. But I was determined that just like a motorcycle ride, this was a journey I just had to get on, hold on, and go somewhere.

At the Minnesota motorcycle show that winter, I met Michelle Meher, and Reggie…….. After a brief discussion of my diagnosis, doctors, - neurologists, and motorcycles, I took a brochure for the River Road Run. I was excited that the two paths in my life could converge as I was planning to go on this ride…. despite the fact I didn’t have a motorcycle.

Seven months later, it was riding day. With a loaner bike from my friend, excitement was at an all time high. I had never been over 45 miles per hour, nor had I ridden a bike for more than a couple of hours at a time. My goal was to raise over $2,500. That year, my first year, friends, relatives and their friends donated more than $10,000 to my humble efforts. And I met a lot of incredible people like you who were equally committed to fighting this disease.

Because of the incredible thrill I experienced, I committed to ride again the next year, and was even more excited that 2nd year. Not only did I now have a friend to ride with me, my friends and family rose to the occasion by donating more than $12,000.

In 2006, I thought that it may be my last year of fundraising. For some reason, I lost the excitement of the journey. I would later realize, that just because you may not have the excited feeling, it doesn’t mean that ride could turn out to be the journey of a lifetime.

While I didn’t start last year’s ride on a motorcycle ride, I was struck by the promise of ending the journey by riding into MS Camp. Little did I know it would become a life-changing journey for me, but equally important to the folks at MS Camp, too.

I called my friend, hopped on the back of her motorcycle and we crossed the finish line at Camp Courage. Yes, I felt a little weird. I didn’t actually ride in the event, but I still reached out to all my friends and family for their support. Little did I know that like all of you who crossed that finish line, I’d be enthusiastically cheered by the courageous folks at camp who thanked us as we rode in.

The memory from that journey that stuck with me the most is a woman named Michelle, one of the campers who had prepared a heartfelt thank you for all the riders’ efforts. She told how the disease progressed to where she could no longer care for her young children. Instead, she needed help from them.

Then I saw Doris, whom I helped with her lunch plate. Moments later, I lost it when she struggled to get her food to her mouth. I was down for the count. No, it wasn’t because of my own MS diagnosis or that this could one day be me. No. What really hit me is the fact that this disease does incredibly devastating things to perfectly decent fellow human beings.

This journey made me realize that regardless of how much money I raise, I’m doing something very important for many people living with MS. In fact, one of the many friends who also lives with MS told me that my “success” made her realize how important it is for her to do something. She might not be able to experience the same journey, but she could contribute and support our MS efforts.

Last May, I volunteered to help at MS camp. It was an amazing experience for me. But to be honest, this was one ride, I really did not think I could complete.

Yet, I ultimately had an amazing week at MS Camp. It was not easy and it is quite an emotional experience. However, I met some exceptional people – ranging from the selfless volunteers to the truly unique individuals with MS – and I had a great time. Come next May, you will find me back at Camp Courage.

And, if I may, I want to invite you and, in fact, strongly encourage you to make the effort to complete your journey by crossing the finish line at Camp Courage tomorrow. It may seem like a little effort, but it is so important to the many people we are helping.

In conclusion, I was excited to learn last year that I was not the top fundraiser for the MSRRR. It wasn’t for a lack of trying on my part. Instead, I was thrilled that new life is continually being infused into this ride, our shared journey.

Whether you are the top fundraiser or you’ve simply wanted to enjoy the journey, I want you to know that supporting, encouraging, and congratulating everything each and every one of us do in this event is what matters to everyone living with MS.

As the Ambassador of the 2007 River Road Run, I want to thank you for being here. You have made a difference, and we have made a difference together. Here’s to continuing this journey together until we bring MS to the end of the road.