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Group peddling for multiple sclerosis: Bike tour planned for mid-August

After five straight years of riding in a 150-mile bike tour to raise money for multiple sclerosis, Sheila Ova thought she would have to skip the event this August.


After five straight years of riding in a 150-mile bike tour to raise money for multiple sclerosis, Sheila Ova thought she would have to skip the event this August.

Her niece will be married on the first day of the annual fund-raiser for the Dakota Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Fortunately, the wedding is in Valley City, N.D., the halfway-point of the ride.

"I'm going to do both," said Ova, of Jamestown, N.D. "Her wedding is at 5:30 in the evening. Hopefully I'll get in by 3:30."

Ova is one of a core group of regular riders in the annual tour, said Wendy Abbey, a spokeswoman at the Fargo chapter.


"The thing that I am always amazed at is how devoted and dedicated some of these individuals are," Abbey said.

This year's 150-mile ride will run between Casselton, N.D., and Valley City. Riders will take a northern route to Valley City on Aug. 14 and a southern route back the next day, Abbey said.

The goal is 130 riders, said Jennifer Kline, president of the MS Society's Dakota Chapter, based in Sioux Falls, S.D. It includes all of North Dakota, South Dakota and seven counties in Minnesota.

Organizers hope the annual tour will raise about $50,000, Kline said. Last year's top fund-raiser, Ralph Hansen of Moorhead, collected about $7,500.

"It's a pretty fun event, actually, if you get over the mental part of, 'Holy cow, you have to sit on a bike for that long,' " said Hansen, whose wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 13 years ago. This will be his 11th ride.

Ova is motivated in part by her job caring for children at Anne Carlsen Center for Children in Jamestown, which provides education and residential medical therapy to young people with disabilities.

"Just from seeing people that have special needs, I feel like it's something I should do," Ova said.

It's also a social event. Two of Ova's sisters have volunteered to help riders at rest stops along the way.


"We just try to treat them good, you know, and let them have a break from riding bike for a few minutes," said one sister, Sandra Devereaux of Fargo.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease affecting the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. It interferes with the brain's ability to send and receive messages, causing a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, vision problems, stiffness, and problems walking.

A cure has not been found, though advances in research have led to new treatments.

"Everybody's hopeful that somewhere along the line they'll figure out what causes it," Hansen said. "The research is making some pretty cool advancements. We've been beneficiaries of that." Hansen said his wife has taken some of the new treatments.

About 38 percent of the money raised in the bike tour is earmarked for research. Another 41 percent goes to programs in the Dakotas, and the remainder is used for fund raising, administration and building reserves, according to the MS Society.

To register for the bike tour or to volunteer, visit the Dakota Chapter of the National MS Society online at www.msdakotachapter.org or call (800) 344-4867 or (701) 235-2678. Registrations can also be mailed to: Dakota Chapter, 1351 Page Drive, Suite 103B, Fargo, ND 58103

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