Mount Pleasant residents Mary Lou Patrick and Jim Patrick waited eagerly for a group of bikers to arrive in Mount Pleasant Sunday afternoon.
“It’s for moral support,” Jim Patrick said. “Moral support can sometimes mean more than financial support. We’re just here to cheer the bikers on.”
A crowd of residents gathered in the parking lot of O’Kelly’s Sports Bar and Grille, 2000 S. Mission St., waiting for the bikers to finally cross the finish line.
They were waiting for about 150 riders who had gathered together for Challenge MS, a seven-mile bike ride from Shepherd to O’Kelly’s to raise money for multiple sclerosis treatment. The seven miles was only the last part of a much larger trek, a bike ride over the Appalachian Mountains, starting nine days ago in Mount Pleasant, S.C., and ending in town.
The Morey Foundation donated $50 for every rider who participated. John Hunter, who organized the 12,000-mile event, which he dubbed ‘Challenge MS,’ said the group broke their $20,000 goal, and was looking at a total of $25,000 to $30,000.
The Patricks heard about the event through their MS support group. Mary Lou was diagnosed over 20 years ago. The disease, along with a host of other problems, often caused pain and vision problems in her left eye.
Cathy Zucker, a Mount Pleasant resident and leader of the support group, said the event was something she could not miss.
“They just rode 12,000 miles for us,” Zucker said. “We have to show our support.”
The first bikers to ride through the finish line were from the Central Michigan University cycling club. The newly-formed RSO had eight of its members participate. The group rode up to Sheperd, joined the group and then rode back, reaching a total of about 20 miles.
“I know John Hunter … and we’re obviously into cycling,” said cycling club member Elikem Moten, a Bloomfield Hills senior. “We knew he was doing the ride, and for every person that showed up, they were donating $50. Well, why wouldn’t we?”
The Challenge MS group crossed the finish line soon after. Hunter, who owns O’Kelly’s, said he was blown away by the support they received when they crossed the finish line, an extension of the support they received the entire ride.
“When we started this ride, we expected to receive support, (but) we didn’t expect this much,” Hunter said. “This completely blew away all of our expectations.”
Hunter said he started the event for personal reasons. His grandfather, who O’Kelly’s is named after, has MS. But the rest of the riders, he said, did it for much loftier reasons.
“All the other people did it because they were totally and utterly selfless,” he said.
Kailee Shea, a Gladstone senior, borrowed her bike from a friend in order to participate in the event. She said she tries to donate to MS causes every chance she can. Shea said even though the heart of the event came from the Challenge MS team, several different groups of people participated in the last seven miles.
“There were old folks, there were children, there were students,” Shea said. “You didn’t have to be in shape to participate. We’re in terrible shape, but we still did it.”
Megan Sitko, a Virginia senior, rode with Shea during the event.
“It was beautiful,” Sitko said. “The wind was a little rough for the first three miles, but, after that, it was great.”
Chris Stage, a Mount Pleasant resident who rode all 12,000 miles as part of the Challenge MS team, said the ride was a challenge to all the bikers. Most had not ridden more than 35 or 40 miles in one day before this. This made the trip a challenge to all the bikers who rode from Mount Pleasant, SC to Mount Pleasant, Mich.
“You definitely got sore and a little tired,” Stage said. “… But you knew your route every day, you knew what you had to ride and it was simply mind over matter every day.”