Riding 100 miles in one day is no easy task for any trained cyclist. Throw multiple sclerosis into the mix and it’s a near impossibility. But that’s not the case for Todd Frauendorfer, who is one of the stronger riders among the more than 2,300 that participate annually in Bike MS: Tour de Farms, the largest charity ride in Illinois, which this year takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 21 and June 22, in DeKalb.
While in the past, Bike MS was reserved for cyclists of all abilities looking to ride and raise funds for multiple sclerosis, in recent years the event has also become a proving ground for those living with the disease, like Frauendorfer, to test their limits through exercise and physical exertion. In 2013, nearly 100 riders living with MS participated in the ride.
“I’m a big proponent of staying active,” says Frauendorfer, a resident of Aurora. “That’s not to say I wasn’t exhausted after completing the 100 miles.”
For Frauendorfer, the exhaustion soon turned to excitement at last year’s event, after being greeted by so many friends, teammates and family members. Another 50 miles the second day was just the icing on the cake.
“For me, Bike MS is such a healthy weekend in that you combine the physical part of biking with the emotional aspect that comes with seeing all of the supporters that come out for the weekend,” says Frauendorfer, who was met by fellow riders including his wife Linda and teammates at the finish line. “There’s a great sense of community and accomplishment since we are all working towards the common goal of ending MS.”
The story of Frauendorfer’s diagnosis is not unlike the many other 400,000 plus individuals who are living with the disease in the U.S. He was first treated for optic neuritis in the summer of 2001. His vision improved within weeks, but several years later, in 2007, his vision issues returned, coupled with balance problems. Following a visit to a neurologist, Frauendorfer’s MRI confirmed that he had multiple sclerosis. Once diagnosed, he began educating himself about the disease, determined to keep it from changing his life as much as possible. By combining his faith, traditional medicine and health and wellness principles, he is able to live a very normal life. The one challenge is the uncertainty and unpredictability of the disease.
In 2012, a friend and co-worker, Matt Kramer of Geneva, Ill., formed team Petal Pushers and together they rode in Bike MS: Tour de Farms. In just three years, their team members, mileage, and fundraising efforts have accelerated significantly. As of June 1, the Petal Pushers were the largest team in Illinois with 98 riders and the number one fundraising team overall for 2014, having already topped the $57,000 mark. Frauendorfer himself has raised more than $10,000.
“Bike MS gives me a great opportunity to raise awareness, educate others, encourage those who are also diagnosed, and raise money to support the programs that improve the lives of those living with the disease,” explains Frauendorfer. “In the past three years, it is amazing the number of people we have encountered that are living with MS or have close friends or family that have been impacted by MS. Participating in the Bike MS event is one way that I can actually feel like I’m doing something about MS rather than just living with it.”
For Frauendorfer and his team, participating in the 33rd annual Bike MS event — which starts and finishes at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center (1525 West Lincoln Highway, DeKalb) — brings about a sense of family, community, and accomplishment all wrapped into one. They are also nearing their goal of having 100 cyclists on the team this year, with riders coming in from thousands of mile away, including his brother from Florida, high school friends from Wisconsin and Michigan, and a co-worker from the Netherlands.
“We knew the best way to raise more money and awareness of MS was to get more riders. Now, we’ve almost doubled our team size again simply by asking last year’s team members to invite at least one co-worker, family member or friend to join them on the ride,” says Frauendorfer. “I believe that if everyone would ask one person to join them at Bike MS we could dramatically grow this great event and its impact in the lives of those living with the disease.”
Cyclists can choose to ride one or two days on one of many fully-supported route options ranging from 15 to 200 miles. Twenty support-and-gear vehicles stocked with first aid and repair supplies continuously patrol the routes throughout the day, and riders are additionally supported with rest stops every 10 to 15 miles. Participants are treated to a great party with live music, food and drinks upon their return. Last year, more than $1.6 million was raised to benefit multiple sclerosis research, programs and services throughout Illinois.
About “I Ride with MS”
Again this year, Genzyme, a Sanofi Company, is sponsoring I Ride with MS, a mission-based program that celebrates participating cyclists who are living with MS through MS One to One. Through the program, cyclists who are living with MS are provided a special “I Ride with MS” jersey. By providing visibility to riders living with MS, the program personalizes the disease and more strongly connects all cyclists, inspiring and empowering them to pedal a bit harder along their journeys. Bike MS consists of 100 cycling events across the country that aim to raise money for MS research and other services supported by the Society.
Registration for Bike MS is open to individual riders, teams, volunteers and virtual riders. To register, visit bikeMSillinois.org. For more information, contact Melissa Foley, Manager of Bike MS, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable, difficult to diagnose and often disabling disease that interrupts the flow of information in the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve. The Greater Illinois Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of more than 20,000 individuals in Illinois and 2.3 million worldwide affected by MS.
To find out more or to register or donate online, visit msillinois.org.