Thousands bike for MS

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COLUMBIA - Thousands of volunteers roughed the heat and stormy weather this weekend to fight Multiple Sclerosis, MS, by biking hundreds of miles.

Shelly Ludwig Lovell has been cheering on bikers crossing the finish line and handing out medals for the past 15 years.

"For me, it's extrememly emotional becuase I have MS," Ludwig Lovell said. "I am standing, walking, fully functional becuase of what every one of these riders does on a day to day basis."

The local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society held its annual "Bike MS" fundraising event the weekend of September 6. Riders formed teams to raise money and biked up to 200 miles this weekend to raise awareness. Bike MS helps support programs, services and research that makes a difference in the lives of people that fight MS every day of their lives.

Ludwig Lovell was diagnosed with MS back in 1994. Her husband has been biking in the event for the past 23 years, before he even met Shelly. After the two met, the race took on a whole new meaning for him. Shelly's team is called the Monsanto Mavericks and each year they strive to earn a mininmum one dollar for each person diagnosed with MS in the Gateway Chapter area. This year, the team raised close to $65,000.

"To have my team, to have my husband doing this for me, to have people doing this that you don't know; just helping others, it's extremely emotional," Ludwig Lovell said. "You meet wonderful friends and you make life-long friends here."

MS is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which means the brain and spinal cord. It's an unpredictable diease and symptoms vary from person to person. A cure has not yet been discovered, but advances have been made in research and some treatments exist. Since MS stops people from moving, bikers took on that responsibility this weekend to show they will fight against the diease.

"Unfortunately, we hear everday of other people that we know that have this horrible disease," Monsanto Maverick biker Deb Bilyeu said. "So we try to do whatever we can do in this little event just to support them and raise money so some time we can see this disease gone in our lifetime."

Shelly is unable to bike because of her MS giving her poor balance. Last year, Shelly was able to cross the finish line for the first time on the back of a teammate's bike. In return, her husband was able to give Shelly her first medal.

"There really aren't words to explain it," Ludwig Lovell said. "Not only for me, but for everybody else that has this disease. It gives us hope. It gives us hope that one day not another person will have to hear, 'You have MS.' My philosphy is, 'I have MS, but it doesn't have me.'"

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society's mission is to "mobilize people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS." The local chapter covers the eastern half of Missouri and the southern portion of Illinois. More than 6,900 people in this area live with MS.