By Andrea Davidson Mulvihill
For Brandi Maher, team member of the “West – End Girls”, it was friendship that brought her to the RONA MS Bike Tour in Niagara. “One of my best friends had a cousin who passed away from MS. I began riding with her, to support her and her family. After finishing the first MS ride, I was hooked.” For Brandi and her team, it is also having this type of support network that makes their fundraising efforts so successful. With an outstanding $3,335.00 raised in their first year, Brandi attributes this success to her family and friends who are always willing to support and sponsor her. “They could see my enthusiasm for the cause and the ride.”
After participating in the MS Walk for a number of years but unable to attend in 2010, team captain Carrie Schaeffer combined her desire to support the MS Society with her love of cycling. “I quickly called up a few friends that share my love of biking, and from there we put together the “Biking Babes” team. It was originally a few girlfriends but we expanded to include some wonderful male riders as well.” Thanks to the unwavering support of family and friends, Carrie and her team were very successful in their first year, raising a phenomenal $9,085.00 in the Toronto tour. For 2011, they are also concentrating on increasing their team numbers from 7 members to at least 10, “It’s contagious; as soon as you recruit one, others follow.”
For Carrie, being a part of the RONA MS Bike Tours has also helped her to further integrate cycling into her every day life, with it now being her primary means of transportation. It has also given her opportunity to challenge herself “I have a personal connection to MS so when I read about the Bike Tour, I thought ‘why not give it a shot.’ I don’t normally cycle for long distances but for a great cause, I thought I would push myself.”
For both women, it is also about the camaraderie. “I love the sense of camaraderie. Whether you’re biking as an individual or as a team, everyone is there cheering each other on. It’s not at all competitive, just people coming together to support a great cause and to have some fun doing it,” says Carrie.
For Brandi, it’s a similar feeling: “I love being apart of something so awesome! The volunteers, the riders, and my team mates, we all encourage each other and support each other. The feeling at the starting point is so powerful, you know you are doing something amazing for everyone around you, and the cause.”
This sentiment is only furthered by the fact that all of these women are participating together. Reflecting on her experience as a female rider, Brandi explains: “Riding with other women is a powerful experience. We lean on each other daily for support and encouragement for so many parts of our lives. Riding with a team of women is an experience to bond, to push, and to pull you through. Seeing each other cross the finish line is like helping your best friend through a bad day.”
Nearly 64% of the $2.55 million raised in the 2010 RONA MS Bike tour, which funds research and services in support of those living with multiple sclerosis, was brought in by teams.
The tours take place in five Ontario cities, starting with three weekend events: Grand Bend to London, July 23-24th; Ottawa, August 6-7th and Acton to Waterloo, August 13th-14th. Two single day tours follow — Niagara on August 22nd and Toronto on September 11th 2011. All food and accommodations are included in the registration fee and all skill levels are welcome and encouraged. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the RONA MS Bike Tours as a team or individual, you can register online by visiting msbiketours.ca, or by contacting the MS Society at 1-800-268-7582.