When over 1,500 cycling enthusiasts gathered recently at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, it wasn’t just with the prospect of a weekend bike ride in mind. It was also for the opportunity to show their support for an important cause, because this was the 23rd Annual Bike MS Coast the Coast Ride — and the cause was Multiple Sclerosis. “It really was a pleasure to take part in the ride,” says Barnes & Noble College Supervisor, IT Procurement, Karen Kostyk. “In addition to being a lot of fun, it was also the chance to help do something really positive, and do what we could to support this cause.” Embarking on a three stage, two-day course that would take the riders along the shores of New Jersey in a total ride of 170 miles, the cyclists were also helping to bring relief to many of those living with MS and to their families.
It can start with symptoms as unassuming as unexplained clumsiness, or a lack of coordination, or numbness, or tingling, but Multiple Sclerosis (MS) today affects between 2 and 2.5 million people globally. It’s an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information both within the brain, and between the brain and body. One of its more insidious characteristics is that many first notice early symptoms in their prime, between the ages of 20 and 40. “Last year, I didn’t have much knowledge about Multiple Sclerosis,” explains Mike Frantino, Director of Financial Planning and Reporting at Barnes & Noble College, “but as I started fund raising for the ride, I discovered I did know people who were affected by the disease.”
It was a similar experience for Mary Beth Rehrer, who rode her first Coast the Coast event in 2006. As she became more involved in volunteering for the cause, she discovered MS among her family and friends. Now the Director of Bike MS New Jersey Metro Chapter at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Rehrer is part of an organization that coordinates over a hundred MS rides around the country. “The New Jersey Coast the Coast ride is one of the larger ones.” she explains. “We’re actually rather proud of it, as it’s an extraordinarily well supported ride.”
This year, that support included Frantino and Kostyk, along with a large team from Barnes & Noble College, comprised of Dineen Jordan, Jose Acta, Troy Wesselius, Lowell Wisdom, Brian Sweeney, Kari Painter, Laura Serrano, Stephanie Voorhees, Jason Snagusky, Joseph McMahon, Tony Junod, Barry Brover, Steve Culver and Maria Lucchesi, who between them, raised more than $4,000 for MS. “Individually, we all had good fundraising this year,” says Frantino, ”which may speak to a greater awareness about the disease,” he adds. For a ride often marked by high winds and less than perfect conditions, this year, the Coast the Coast riders were able to enjoy two days of perfect weather. “It was a beautiful day spent with good people and riding for a really great cause,” Frantino notes.
The donations raised by the Barnes & Noble College team will be used to improve the quality of life for those living with MS, contributing to programs such as wellness initiatives, financial assistance, housing programs, scholarships and outreach for aids such as text-to-speech computer assistance to help family members communicate. The donations will also help support and fund national research programs.
Rehrer is excited about the progress currently being made in MS research and feels confident that the donations raised by the Coast the Coast ride will help fund some significant breakthroughs within this generation. “We’re really thankful for the support of Barnes & Noble College, and for all those who rode or volunteered with us,” she says. Riders like Frantino agree. “I think it’s important for the company to take an interest in the community and help out any way we can,” he says, adding, “we have a lot of people in this company who are interested and hopefully the program will continue to grow from here.”
For more information on Multiple Sclerosis, to connect to local MS Chapter Offices, or for information about volunteering or programs, please visit nationalmssociety.org.