The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 26, 2012

‘Bike the U.S. for MS’ participants stop in Pittsburg

$218,000 raised for cause

PITTSBURG, Kan. — One thousand, six hundred and seventy-seven miles down. Two thousand, one hundred and eight miles to go.

In the span of two months, a group of 20 men and women will go from sea level to 11,000 feet to sea level again. They’ll endure rain, wind, desert temperatures above 100 degrees and mountain temperatures hovering near 30.

Traveling by bicycle, they all have their reasons: Some want to see the country; others heard about the ride from friends or co-workers, and thought it sounded like a challenge. The commonality is raising funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis as part of the trans-America tour, “Bike the U.S. for MS.”

Jennifer Cherry, a 48-year-old from Illinois, is riding in honor of her mother, Elizabeth Pauken, who was diagnosed with MS in 1997 after experiencing years of symptoms. She lost mobility after two years, and after three or four years she was unable to play her beloved piano.

The family was told that she had chronic progression, and she was given “10 good years,” Cherry said Tuesday afternoon during the group’s annual stopover at Wheat State Pizza in Pittsburg.

Volunteers had once again arranged for lunch, a banquet Tuesday night, lodging and showers. Mayor John Ketterman proclaimed it “Bike the U.S. for MS Day in Pittsburg.”

Cherry said her mother made it 14 years; she died last December.

“She had determination and a lot of support,” Cherry said.

Cherry said she likewise has relied on determination and support to make it from Yorktown, Va., to Pittsburg since June 1, particularly through the mountainous Ozarks of Missouri, and she will depend on those factors to reach San Francisco on Aug. 1.

“Those hills,” she said. “I see one in front of me and I think, ‘It’s not nearly as difficult as what people with MS deal with every day.’ I know the hills will end. For them, they won’t. That’s why we’re here.”

It’s not the first time the group has come through Pittsburg; this marks the group’s fourth year to stop here before it heads west across Kansas and into southern Colorado. Each year, the reception grows, led by Gina Peak, a Scammon woman who was diagnosed with MS in 2004.

Peak enlists the help of friends, each of whom has other personal connections to MS. The riders were so impressed that last year they created the Peak Award; Peak was the first recipient.

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