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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Biking for a cure

MS+150
Photo by Robert O’Brien
MS 150

A swarm of bicyclists take over the streets in a portion of south Texas in late April every year.  This is no ordinary gathering, rather one that is focused on finding a cure for something which affects the lives of many living across the globe.

The wheels of thousands of bikes spin for two days every spring during the annual Texas MS 150 Bike Ride in support of individuals impacted by multiple sclerosis, or MS. Riders from all across the nation band together to take on the roads of Texas in support of the research and treatment of MS, which is an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system.

With different effects in each individual, MS is a long-lasting disease affecting the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms,” the website reads. “There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.”

With 68 total rides across the country, the Texas ride is one of many bringing teams together to raise money and awareness for those who suffer from the condition, which currently has no cure. The MS 150 took on a new path this year, finishing at Kyle Field on May 1, after having to cancel last year due to rain and a hiatus from COVID-19 in 2020. 

The two-day event featured multiple starting points in Houston and Austin, with the first day ending in La Grange before starting again to make the final trek to College Station, with riders typically completing approximately 75 miles a day. This year’s event featured 5,947 participants and raised $7,206,542 for MS research, according to the MS Society website

Participants range from large corporations with teams to family members of individuals who have MS as well as some participants who themselves are living with MS. During the event, those living with MS such as Caroline Barrett, Class of 2021, are able to participate in a victory lap across the finish line together.

Two weeks after her 17th birthday, Barrett began to experience weakness on the left side of her body, which eventually worsened to losing the ability to grip things with her left hand and the ability to smile with the left side of her face. As things began to worsen, her family knew they had to look for further answers and Barrett was rushed to the hospital where she was met with five days of testing and was eventually diagnosed with relapsing and remitting multiple sclerosis. 

Shortly after her diagnosis, her father signed up to race in the Texas MS 150, though he was not the only one riding in her honor; her father and his work friends banded together as a team to raise funds for others who were going through the same thing as his daughter. 

“Initially, I thought that I was too young to have this happen to me. I was afraid that I could never have the happy and healthy young adulthood I thought I deserved,” Barrett said in her team profile. “I feared I would not be able to do all that my peers could; however, this feeling didn’t last forever.”

The next year, Barrett joined the team alongside her father, and has continued to ride every year since her diagnosis.

“Completing the 2017 MS 150 was one of the happiest moments of my life,” Barrett said in her profile. “I not only got to complete what I was initially unsure I was capable of doing, but I also was able to meet so many incredible people along the way, people who are just as dedicated to finding a cure.”

Though the weekend is focused on the ride, Barrett said it is so much more than just riding. With thousands of people all banded together for the same cause, Barrett said they are able to educate and spread awareness of the autoimmune disease, all while bonding and spending time celebrating money raised to help find a cure. 

“Event weekend is a blast — the energy is high and there are tons of people cheering you on,” Barrett said. “While the ride can seem very daunting, I’ve never met a person that regretted doing it. It’s great exercise and for such a worthy cause. I, along with everyone with MS, [am] grateful to anyone that contributes.” 

Many of Barrett’s family members and friends had always supported her as she began participating in the ride, although in 2021, her friend Alex Samouce, Class of 2019, saw his company was putting together a team to raise money to ride in the race he had heard so much about, he said he could not pass up the opportunity to participate in something so meaningful to him.

He spent much of 2021 training for his first ride, though the Texas event was canceled due to weather; Samouce was finally able to put his training to the test this past weekend.

“I personally really like the community behind it and the resources that are available to train and practice for the ride. Everyone is so passionate and nice,” Samouce said. “The MS 150 is important because of all the people it helps with funding and awareness, especially my friend [Barrett] who lives with and fights MS everyday.” 

Before the weather cancellation, 2021 was supposed to be the first year with a new finish line inside of Kyle Field in the heart of College Station. Both being Aggies, Barrett and Samouce said they were excited to return to their alma mater, while participating in a race they are very passionate about. 

“Being an Aggie, I am absolutely stoked to return to Kyle Field,” Samouce said. “The atmosphere is super cool.”
With the ride finishing in Aggieland, many students were given the opportunity to volunteer to encourage riders and help with the logistics of the event. As an employee of Aggieland Outfitters, junior sociology Jordan Haschke said she found out about the event through her employer and decided to volunteer. As a volunteer, Haschke said she was able to cheer people on as they finished the last stretch of the ride in Kyle Field. 
“They gave us little noisemakers and we had the towels to cheer everybody on as they were getting toward the finish line,” Haschke said. “It was a really cool experience to get to witness, [and] it was really awesome seeing everyone’s families there as they’re cheering on their family members [who] were riding in it. I just wanted to be a part of that atmosphere and get involved more with the A&M community since they were doing the finish line here at Kyle Field.”
Seeing the direct effects of the fundraising efforts, Haschke said during the ride, she saw many individuals with MS who had family members who were fundraising on their behalf.
“Seeing some of the people who were there who had MS who had family members riding in it, it was an emotional experience for them,” Haschke said. “It was really heartwarming to see, and I definitely would want to get to experience that again.”
When the ride returns to Kyle Field in 2023, Haschke said she encourages students and community members to volunteer for the event. 
“I would encourage other students to volunteer to gain a different perspective about MS because there’s a lot of people that don’t really know what it is [and] I think it’s really important to continue raising awareness for it,” Haschke said. “If anybody has any family members that really enjoy biking, we encourage more people to sign up and fundraise a little bit more for it.”

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