Alfonso Morell, 11, from Andover, Mass., did two things he enjoys when he strapped on a bike helmet and cycled 30 miles through downtown Boston this summer: he rode his bike and he helped others. The sixth grader raised nearly $2,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Greater New England Chapter.
“I know people who have MS,” he said. “Everybody pretty much knows at least one person who has it.”
Alfonso completed the 30-mile course with thousands of other cyclists and alongside his mother, Monica Morell. Monica grew up in Western New York, in a town that contained a geographical pocket of MS and one of her aunts had the disease. She said every family in the area had a relative, a coworker, or a friend affected by multiple sclerosis. The majority of friends and family who donated to Alfonso’s fundraising efforts are from Monica’s hometown of Lockport, N.Y.
“For me, it’s personal,” she said. “It’s in the family and in the community I grew up in.”
Volunteering is nothing new to Alfonso, who attends West Middle School. He has raised funds for children with cancer, helped deliver Thanksgiving meals to underserved families, and volunteered at the Andover Youth Services Christmas Tree lot. In addition to earning straight A’s and serving on the student council, Alfonso also spends his time playing soccer, skiing, playing the trumpet and piano while learning the drums, but his favorite activity is riding his bike. That love of cycling and his desire to help others were the key to his fundraising success, according to Monica.
“The combination of him, who he is, and an eleven-year-old on a bike is very appealing,” she said. “And it’s the cause. It’s for MS. People were very responsive to that.”
This mother and son duo don’t just bike together. When Alfonso was eight years old, he climbed five 4,000-foot peaks with his mother.
“He was helping me obtain my goal of climbing all 67 of the 4,000 footers in New England,” she said.
Their latest adventure has been “a teachable moment,” Monica said, with Alfonso coming of age and learning and understanding what charity is.
For Alfonso, the 30-mile bike ride was a great experience “because I know it makes a difference and it is something that I like doing,” he said.
The money Alfonso raised will support the Greater New England Chapter’s BFit program, which promotes wellness through physical activity for people with progressive MS. Monica is a yoga wellness instructor and both she and Alfonso wanted the funds raised to unite the MS community with the wellness and yoga communities.