Emmy-award winning TV star Phil Keoghan – host of The Amazing Race – knows a thing or two about going the distance to end MS.
A longtime Bike MS participant and fundraiser, Phil decided to bring together philanthropy, show business and a lifelong quest for adventure when he fulfilled his ambition of cycling across America in the spring of 2009. En route he shattered his fundraising goal and deepened his already strong bonds with the MS community.
Phil chronicled his odyssey of personal challenge and self-discovery in the film The Ride, which he promoted with a national tour. Regal Cinema donated theaters for the showings and the monies received from the ticket sales to the Society.
Joining the MS Movement
Phil’s association with the Society dates to 2006 when he began requiring members of a training club he sponsors to enter the Southern California-Nevada Chapter’s Bike MS event. When organizers learned there was a star in their midst, they asked Phil to say a few words. To borrow a famous movie line: He had us at hello.
“He’s a great, down-to-earth, easy guy to work with,” said Leon LeBuffe, the chapter’s president. “His energy and vision are so inspiring, he draws you to what he’s doing and makes you feel like you can do more.”
Cycling 3,500 Miles in Just 40 Days
Riding across the country wasn’t enough. Phil set a goal of completing this awe-inspiring feat in just 40-days, meaning he had to cycle almost 100 miles every day of this trek. Even for someone this fit, pedaling from California to New York – often battling fierce wind and rain – is darn hard.
Did we mention that Phil never wastes an opportunity? The ride became a fundraiser when nutritional-products chain GNC offered to put National MS Society donation stations in stores. GNC hoped to raise $250,000 this way, but surpassed that target midway thanks to GNC employees’ heartfelt work and customers’ generosity. By New York, a world free of MS was $450,000 closer.
“I didn’t think that we would raise as much money as we did, especially as I rode across the country and saw people suffering financially as much as they were,” Phil said.
“The money was one thing. It’s invaluable, the impact we had on awareness, bringing people with MS together and helping them feel like they had a platform to be heard.”
Phil was already familiar with MS because a cousin in New Zealand lives with the disease, and learned more by making time to chat with members of the MS community who came to cycle with him. He rode an entire hour at 5 mph with one woman living with MS.
“It was an education for me too, to understand just how complex the disease is,” he said. But as he reflected on the generosity and progress he observed from coast to coast, Phil said something the entire MS community can be glad to hear:
“I’m hugely encouraged.”
No Opportunity Wasted to End MS
Phil’s lifelong philosophy is “No Opportunity Wasted,” largely motivated by a near-death experience when he was 19. Ever since then he has made the most of every opportunity that he can.
Similarly, the Society’s research fundraising initiative NOW – An MS Research Revolution borrows from this same philosophy. The initiative aims to raise $250 million over the next five years to fund MS research that pursues all promising paths to STOP MS in its tracks, RESTORE function already lost, and ultimately END MS for everyone – forever. The name of the initiative, NOW. No Opportunity Wasted, was selected in partnership with Phil, and creates shared urgency in funding research to bring solutions to everyone affected by multiple sclerosis.