Pedalers will move for people whose own motion is compromised when the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s 17th Island biking event, Ride the Vineyard, takes off from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School on May 1.
MS is a neurological disease that affects 400,000 people in the United States alone and its damage to the brain and spinal cord inhibits a person’s ability to walk and talk. The society holds 100 fund-raising rides like this one throughout the country each year and uses the proceeds for research and support programs for people afflicted with the disease. This is the first of seven rides in the region scheduled by the New England chapter.
There are three different rides for all levels of ability, each starting and ending at the high school, and riders can sign up individually or as teams. The entry fee is $35 and each individual is asked to generate $250 in pledges.
Seasonal Chilmark resident Bob Green heads a volunteer committee that helps organize the Vineyard ride and his team of 16, the All Greens, hopes to raise $5,000. This is the fourth year he and his wife Happy have participated in the ride on their tandem bike.
The fund-raising goal for the Vineyard ride is $450,000, which is approximately what was raised last year with 650 riders participating. “We’re very encouraged by the numbers so far this year,” Mr. Green said. “Rider registrations are up slightly and fundraising is up. Obviously, the economy has affected these events, which was the main reason we didn’t increase our goals this year.”
But he added that there are not as many Vineyarders riding as he would expect. He’s not sure if it’s the pledge amount, although it is in line with other similar rides, or lack of publicity. This year he’s worked with the Cycling Club of Martha’s Vineyard and local bike shops to promote the event.
The cycling club’s own team of seven riders headed by David Murphy has set a goal of $2,500 in pledges and has received $2,090 to date.
John Stevenson, owner of Cycle Works bike shop in Vineyard Haven, said that while many Vineyarders may not be riding, quite a few help with advance plans and assist the day of the event. “So there are many more local participants than just riders to count,” he said.
And Mr. Stevenson said it’s important to emphasize that this is a tour, not a race. “You ride at your own pace; you ride with a friend,” he said. He will be riding for the first time himself, after having provided tech support to the ride for years.
T. Ewell Hopkins, an avid Vineyard cyclist, has been part of the support staff for several years. “Bike awareness on the Island is dear to me and this event does a lot to inform motorists of the importance of sharing the road,” he said.
When West Tisbury resident David Brodsky’s sister-in-law was diagnosed with MS seven or eight years ago, he started riding the 175-mile Boston to Provincetown MS ride. He’s done the Vineyard ride for the last five years, but this year his children will do the 25K ride while he volunteers at one of the rest stops. “I’d love to see more families involved,” he said. “It’s a great chance to have a ride while doing something good.”
The 100K ride begins at 9 a.m. and goes to West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah. The 50K ride leaves at 10 a.m. and heads to Edgartown and Katama before going to Oak Bluffs. The 25K ride starts at 11:30 a.m. and goes out and back the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road to the youth hostel in West Tisbury.
Participants are invited to a welcome reception at Mediterranean restaurant in Oak Bluffs from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday night and to a cookout from noon until 4 p.m. at the high school following the ride. MS partners with the Martha’s Vineyard Boys’ and Girls’ Club, which helps promote the event, supplies volunteers, and hosts the cookout.
To sign up to ride or make a donation, go to bikemam.nationalmssociety.org, or sign up the day of the event. The minimum age to participate is 14.
Although riders are asked to send their donations in before the event, those who register now do have the option of mailing them after May 1, according to Liz Strawn of the New England chapter of the MS Society.