Making a difference

by Arlyn on August 6, 2008

Last year, my friend Andrew invited me to ride the 2007 MS Bike Tour with him.  It’s a 150-mile event over two days that raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Wow – 150 miles!  The longest I had ever cycled in a day was maybe 40 miles – could I ride a full century followed by another 50-mile day?  I love a good challenge so I accepted and we started training in earnest.

I told another friend, Dave about it and he immediately signed up.  Then his friend Firger, who’s Mom struggles with MS signed up.  Firger actually signed up without owning a bicycle.  Next thing I know, we’ve got 7 people on the team.  We’re started calling ourselves “Team Climb On!“.

When you sign up, you commit to raising at least $400 for the National MS Society.  I was pretty nervous about being able to raise that much so I procrastinated asking for donations.  I had no real connection to the MS community and was happier focusing on the cycling challenge.  In the back of my mind, I pondered whether I would just pony up the $400 myself rather than ask for donations.

Then one day, it occurred to me that one of my best friend’s dad has multiple sclerosis.  His name is John.  John used to have a really active life, he was an avid skier, cyclist, hiker and tennis player. After his diagnosis in 1992 he had to use a cane to walk, then a walker, and now a wheelchair.  He’s unable to move on his own or even feed himself.  John considers himself very lucky that even though he has lesions on his brain typical of MS, they have not progressed and he maintains full mental capabilities.

All of a sudden, what really mattered to me was how we could help people like John live with MS.  I told this story and asked for donations and people gave far more generously than I could have predicted. I was inspired by their contributions.  As the summer progressed, Team Climb On! worked harder and harder to make a significant difference in the MS community.  We were all getting stoked by people’s commitment to do something good.  It drove us to go farther.

By the time the actual event rolled around in October, we had raised $22,047.01 to fight MS.  Each member of Team Climb On! was awarded Top Fundraiser and 4 of us were among the top 150 fundraisers, which is a special honor.  We were presented with a team award and I even won “Rookie Team Captain of the Year” at an awards banquet in January.

Oh, and I did the cycling.  It was a great ride, in fact.  But do you know what was so inspiring and what got me really passionate?  It was the difference we made in the MS community.  It was all the lives we touched.  From the riders on our team who were getting into cycling just for the event, to the people we inspired by our example, to all the people who would benefit from the money we raised.  I had no idea that contributing like that could be so rewarding, so fulfilling. I really got that life is the most rewarding when you are being a contribution.

This year we’re going even bigger.  We’ve already doubled the size of Team Climb On!, which was pretty easy – people want to be a part of making a difference.  We’ve also increased our fundraising goal to $50,000 which I think is actually pretty doable – with a bit of help 🙂  I’m not worried about the training anymore and there are 30-mile and 100-mile course alternatives for people who are more focused on the contribution aspects than the cycling.

I can’t wait to see how much we can accomplish this year. Visit my donations page, make a contribution and be a part of it.

ps: Would you like to be a part of Team Climb On?  Visit our team web site to see what we’re up to and drop me a line at arlynasch at gmail dot com if you’re interested in joining.  We’re always looking for people who want to make a difference.

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