Walkers and bikers laced up, put on layers, and hit the trails at Perham Pioneer Village for the first ever Perham Bike & Hike. The charity event invites members of the community to walk or bike to fight multiple sclerosis. Participants can be sponsored with all proceeds going to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Multiple Sclerosis or MS is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms can include numbness, loss of vision, and paralysis. The disease forms when the body's immune system attacks myelin, a substance that surrounds nerve fibers. The damage caused to myelin tissue ultimately affects the brain and spinal cord, making movement difficult or impossible.
As the temperatures dropped and the rain came pouring in, organizers knew they had to alter their event plans. Quickly things were moved inside giving participants some refuge from the elements. However, that refuge would be fleeting because after a quick sign up process, they would need to begin their walk or bike ride.
Walkers completed a three mile hike on the bike trail, wrapping around the Perham Pioneer Village. Bikers would have to go 10 miles, traveling down Mosquito Heights Road to Big Pine Lodge. After a short break at the lodge, bikers made the long trek back to the Pioneer Village.
Mark and Annette Riestenberg came back from a long bike ride just a little winded and little famished. Before snacking on some steak, they shared the finer points of their journey through the rainy cold. The full ride only took about 20 minutes for the couple. They were able to finish in good time, but the cold didn't make things easier. The couple praised the event as a chance to support a good cause.
Event Organizer Stephen Sweere huddled into the shelter greeting participants as they filed in. Sweere got the idea to organize the Bike & Hike after attending a similar bike ride for MS in Minneapolis. The event is in its first year with him and others hoping it will evolve into a yearly tradition of fighting for a cure. "Its alot of work in the first year to get it going," said Sweere. The rain made things tough, but him and his team were making the best of it. Luckily the rain died down shortly after the event began.
The event was supported by several volunteers and people involved in the fight against MS. Some volunteers had family and loved ones afflicted with the debilitating disease, they used this opportunity to spread awareness about the personal hardships of people with MS. Joan Guck has been involved with MS for 20 years. Her husband and daughter both had MS, and she takes the battle against the disease quite seriously. She hasn't missed an MS event in many years. "We've always had the walk in Detroit Lakes, Fergus (Falls), and other places, and we should have it in Perham," said Guck.
Colleen Sazama works for the local Self Help Care Partners Group. Sweere contacted Sazama about having an MS event, and the two joined forces to put on the Bike & Hike. Her group discusses the various challenges faced by people with MS. She herself has multiple sclerosis and has been helping others since 1998. Her favorite part of events like this are simply the people and how they offer support and similar experiences.
Dozens arrived and contributed to the combined effort of raising money. The event had several sponsors including, Arvig, Big Pine Lodge, Action Fabricating, Women of Focus, DL Bike Shop, and Centennial Realty. Participants got to run and bike, then enjoy a dinner complete with steak and potatoes. Any donations over $10 were entered into a drawing for a new bike.