Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body. Symptoms range from numbness to total paralysis. At this time, there is no way to predict the severity of how the disease will affect an individual. Most people are diagnosed with the disease between the ages of 20 and 50. MS is currently being battled by 2.3 million people worldwide. Many words come to mind when describing multiple sclerosis (MS); disabling, unpredictable, paralyzing and numbing. For Reeves Northrup, there is only one word—personal.
“My dad was diagnosed with MS at the age of 36,” explains Northrup. “He was confined to a wheelchair at the age of 40. Back then, they didn’t have the meds and the treatments that are available today. It was more of a death sentence. We were basically told to go home because there was nothing they could do for us. Thanks to new advances in research and funding they have been able to slow the progression of the disease, but unfortunately there still is no cure. In 1994, a new drug called Copaxone arrived on the scene and since then they’ve been able to come out with ten or more new drugs to help those with MS.”
Northrup’s father, Reeves Northrup Sr., lived with MS for 29 years and died two days before his 65th birthday in 1999. “My mom, Janet, was a very strong-willed person and took care of my dad. She took him to parties, my basketball games and other functions. My dad was a former athlete and a large man. It wasn’t easy but she made certain he was included and shared in our social life.”
Northrup annually participates in the MS Bike to the Bay. In 2000 the event was renamed for his father as the Reeves Northrup Memorial Bike to the Bay. “It was only supposed to be named in my dad’s memory for three years, but the event has grown to such an extent since then that they decided to keep the name permanently.”
Originally, Northrup rode in honor and memory of his father but that is no longer the case. “Of course I always think of my dad when I ride but now I ride for friends and acquaintances of mine such as Chris Kajfasz and Tricia Courtney who have been afflicted with MS,” says Northrup. “With new advancements you can now live with and not die from MS. They are living proof of that.”
The Bike to the Bay celebrated its 25th year last year and the organization is excited to keep moving forward. Each year, Brian Douglas has helped Northrup put a team together of over 50 riders for the cause. “Our team name is ‘Sitting Bull,’” states Northrup. “That is because my dad’s CB handle was ‘Sitting Bull’ because he couldn’t walk. He would shout out the orders from his wheelchair back in the day.”
Northrup hopes those who have biked in previous years as well as those who have never participated, will consider signing up for the event this year. “It is not just a bike ride where at the end you can have a couple of beverages and pat yourself on the back,” Northrup points out. “It raises vital funding to continue the research that will lead to continued advancement in treatments and one day to find a cure.”
Northrup says, “You can be a novice or a seasoned biker and still participate. Chris Kajfasz is on the team and she has had MS for 29 years and has a drop foot. The medications she takes have allowed her to live an active life. She truly is an inspiration. Here is a gal that has MS and rides 35 miles. My point being, anyone can participate. Along the way there are rest stops every 8 to 12 miles. If you feel as if you can’t make it, there is transportation available to get to you to the fun at the end of the bike ride. People at the rest stops will thank me for riding. I always tell them as long as I CAN ride, I WILL ride. I ride for those who can’t and would love to be able to. When I’m riding to the Bay I will be thinking of my dad and the struggles that he went through. I truly do pedal for a purpose.”
The Reeves Northrup Memorial Bike MS Bike to the Bay ride begins at Perrysburg High School on Saturday, June 20. There are route options of 35, 50, 75, and 100 miles so riders age 12 and over of any experience and ability level can register to ride. Two-day riders stay overnight in Port Clinton and receive a Jet Express ticket to Put-In-Bay before making the return trip to Perrysburg on Sunday, June 21. All cyclists must fundraise a minimum of $300 prior to the event to be eligible to participate.
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Volunteers are always needed and appreciated!