EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Glastonbury resident David Houston is an avid cyclist. It might be hard to pin him down as he rides all over the winding roads of eastern Connecticut. But once June arrives, you can count on seeing him in his Pratt & Whitney jersey at the starting line of Bike MS.
“During my high school and college years I was a runner, but as my knees took a beating I began to look at cycling as an alternative way to keep moving,” said Houston, a resident of Glastonbury. “Now, I ride my bike all the time.”
Houston started participating in bike rides offered by local bike shops and became a member of the Pratt & Whitley’s Cycling Club with about 100 of his co-workers. He went with the team from one charity ride to another, until that is, one held his attention.
“I rode in my first Bike MS ride in Windsor in 2010 and I’ve been coming back ever since,” said Houston, a manager of the Core Structures Group at the East Hartford-based Pratt & Whitney. “My good friend Keith was diagnosed with MS a while ago so I started riding with him in mind. Then, I learned that members of my team at work also had close ties to the disease, so we had even more reason to stick with it.”
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents are affected by multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. The cause is unknown and there is currently no cure for MS. Symptoms can include numbness in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness, loss of mobility and, in some more severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
Pratt & Whitney, a U.S.-based aerospace manufacturer with global service operations, provides jerseys to members of the Pratt & Whitney Cycling Club who wish to participate in charity events.
“The Pratt & Whitney Cycling Club Bike MS fundraising team usually has about 25 riders, and the last few years we’ve raised around $5,000 for each ride,” said Houston. “I post a few fliers around my department and send an email to all members of the company’s cycling team to get the word out.”
Funds raised by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter, through events such as Bike MS, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure, as well as help to provide vital programs and services offered by the chapter to those in the state living with multiple sclerosis.
“So far, we have about a dozen riders signed up to participate in the 2014 Praxair Bike MS,” said Houston, captain of the team. “But, typically engineers are last-minute so I know we’ll get more before June 1. I’m also trying to get two of my teenage kids to ride with me this year.”
Last year, Bike MS attracted more than 800 cyclists and raised a record $578,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter. This year, the chapter hopes to raise $595,000.
The 2014 Praxair Bike MS ride, presented by Louis Dreyfus Commodities will take place on Sunday, June 1, in Windsor, and Sunday, June 8, in Westport. Cyclists at the Windsor location gather at Griffin Land each year and ride across the Connecticut countryside, opting to cycle 2, 10, 25, 50 or even 100 miles.
“Bike MS is a really great ride because it’s a beautiful area, the ride isn’t too challenging and the MS Society really takes care of you afterward,” Houston continued, who completes the 50-mile route each year. “The lunch provided after the ride is great and you can even get a free massage by Massage Envy. It’s an all-around great way to spend a Sunday.”
In addition to the barbeque lunch and massages, the National MS Society books live entertainment, local vendors offering product samples and more for all cyclists.
The registration fee for this year’s ride is $35. The minimum fundraising amount per registered rider is $125.
Community partners include WTNH News 8, The Fox 95.9, and WRCH Lite 100.5, which has supported and promoted the ride for more than 27 years. Darren Kramer, evening news anchor for WTNH News 8, has teamed up to serve as the grand marshal.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities to make a donation online to a good cause, but to get out and actively participate in a fundraising event like Bike MS is a really good feeling,” said Houston. “At the end of the ride when I cross the finish line, I have a real sense of accomplishment. I think it’s something everyone should try.”
For more information on the 2014 Praxair Bike MS ride, presented by Louis Dreyfus Commodities, or to donate to the Pratt & Whitney Cycling Club team, visit www.bikeMSct.org.