This week, the cycling community of the Carolinas and cyclists across the nation raised $1,200 for the purchase of a recumbent (three-wheel) bike, so that Jeff Leffelman, who is living with MS, can ride and participate at Bike MS: Tour to Tanglewood. Jeff was ‘shocked’ at the support from everywhere. Jeff said, “It was incredibly touching, and one of those things you read about, but doesn't happen to people you know. Even though I don't know most of the people that made this possible (yet), I feel the love coming from each and every one of them, and I'd like to find a way to send that love right back to them. I will never forget their huge act of kindness.”
Jeff used to cycle until 7 years ago when he was diagnosed with MS. Now that he will participate in Bike MS: Tour to Tanglewood in September, he is “so excited”. He said, “I still get a bit emotional thinking about riding with a team. This is my first Bike MS, but I know I'm being supported by so many all around the country. I'm not the only one that can't wait to see me on the trike.”
This collaboration all started at the National MS Society 2015 Leadership Conference when Jeff Leffelman met Jonathan Pierce, captain for a Bike MS team called the Foothills Brewing Cycling Team. Jeff said, “I’ve always felt like people come into our lives for a reason, and that holds true now more than ever. Jon was the first person I met at the MS Leadership Conference. We had no connection other than both being team captains, and both having lived in NC. We emailed a bit after the conference, when Jon said "We're not done yet, Jeff". I don't think either of us knew what that meant at the time... but meeting Jon seems like it was meant to happen.”
Jon said, “We were sitting next to each other in the front row. Noticing he was using a cane, I took the opportunity to speak with him. He's an extremely nice guy. I wasn't paying much attention to him when I saw him fall from his chair. My reaction was to try to help him up, and he told me he needed to do it, but thanked me. To me, that spoke volumes about what kind of person he is.”
Jeff communicated to Jon that he would like to ride in Bike MS: Tour to Tanglewood. When Jeff explained to Jon though that because of balance issues, Jeff would need a recumbent bike that is too pricey to afford, Jon made posts on Facebook and created a ‘Go Fund Me’ account in order to help Jeff raise money to buy a recumbent bike. Through his appeals, people from as far away as California contributed, in addition to Texas, Nevada, and Indiana.
Jeff said, “I have always wanted to ride in Bike MS simply because I liked to ride and have MS. Now, it means so much more. Most of all, it means new connections and comradery, renewing old friendships and creating new ones. It means a freedom that I never thought I'd have again. This Bike MS means the world to me.”
Jon agrees. He said, “Regarding being able to have Jeff have the tools to ride in this event—it means everything. It goes to the heart and soul of why I am involved with the MS Society. As I've told so many people, those suffering from MS are the most appreciative group of people I've ever known. Countless times I've been approached by people thanking me for fighting with them, and funding the research that allows them to live better. I shared that this bike is not a charity for Jeff, it's an investment. Jeff already works hard for his Team Amboy Walk MS Team, and this will allow him to participate in Bike MS, and inspire all of us.”
About Bike MS
The National MS Society’s Bike MS program has operated successfully since 1980, providing more than $1 billion (through 2014) to fund research, education, advocacy and programs that support people affected by MS. Through the combined talents and efforts of many, we are the premier fundraising cycling series in the nation.
Bike MS is a series of 100 extraordinary cycling events across the county—rides that take cyclists further than they’ve ever gone before. It’s not the miles that matter—it’s the unforgettable journey. Bike MS is more than a ride—it’s anticipation, camaraderie, personal accomplishment, and the knowledge that you’re changing lives… making every mile that much sweeter. As a great personal challenge and achievement that any rider can experience, Bike MS is both a weekend-long and lifelong opportunity to make a difference.
In 2014 alone, almost 95,000 individuals and 7,432 teams participated in Bike MS events across the country, raising a combined total of over $82.8 million to fund critical research and help people address the challenges of MS.
About Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.
Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million worldwide.