February 2014 Leader - Jeff Walters - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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February 2014 Leader - Jeff Walters

The National MS Society works to improve the quality of life for people affected by MS in Oklahoma and raise funds for critical MS research. Join the movement toward a world free of MS.

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Jeff Walters

Jeff first joined our organization as a SAG driver in 1994 for the BP MS 150 Houston-to-Austin Bike Ride. With his spouse already riding in the event, his teenage children felt he also needed to find something to do away from the house that weekend. Why not join mom and ride a bike? Instead “the old man” volunteered to drive a SAG vehicle and he’s been hooked ever since.

Jeff’s commitment and leadership is well defined in his volunteer responsibilities and achievements which include:

  • Serving as the BP MS 150 Steering Committee Chair which is a year round commitment
  • Volunteering over 500 hours a year to ensure the ride is as well-run, safe and successful as possible; no small task for a ride the size of the BP MS 150
  • Organizing and facilitating meetings of the Houston Steering Committee
  • Serving as key contact for all committee members to ensure appropriate tasks are completed and deadlines met
  • Ensuring adequate training and development of all committee and sub-committee members
  • Implementing new procedures and protocol for the event, including:
    • A new SAG stop operation in 2006 that involves riders and support vehicles to work together to move bikes and people safely along the route
    • Communication protocol utilizing handheld radios at breakpoints
    • Breakpoint site traffic flow which resulted in the addition of Breakpoint Entrance Controllers
When asked why he has dedicated over 20 years of his life volunteering with the National MS Society, Jeff talks about just a couple of the riders he’s met along the way, both just trying to make it to the finish line:
Several years back, there was a young man, the very last rider, dressed in blue jeans and riding a 3 speed bike with knobby tires, determined to make it across the finish line. All of the route support vehicles lined up behind the boy with lights flashing and horns blaring. Jeff knew the young man must have felt like a star that day and the sight brought him to tears, reminding him of “why we do this!”
 
More recently, Jeff’s reminder came from a young woman struggling to make it up the last hill before the final turn toward the finish line. Jeff got out of his vehicle and asked her what was wrong. Sobbing, she replied that her bike was broken. Seeing her chain on the ground, he turned the bike over and fixed it. He then walked her bike to the top of the hill while she regained her composure. All she needed was a little push to complete her journey for someone else who could not complete the journey on their own.
 
Jeff is also a licensed amateur radio operator (HAM) and has been a member of the nationally recognized Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program for the past eight years. In this capacity, Jeff volunteers for many other bike rides, triathlons, marathons and walks in the state of Texas. He is currently the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) South Texas District 14 emergency coordinator. He has held this position since Hurricane Ike in September 2008.
 
Loyalty such as Jeff’s is rare and we will be forever grateful that his teenagers wanted the house to themselves all those years ago!
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