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Raising awareness for MS through sport


Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects millions worldwide, with cases concentrated the most in Canada, with three more Canadians diagnosed every day.

The disease of the central nervous system is unpredictable and can affect vision, balance, memory, and mobility, with no known initial cause.

With an estimated one in 340 Canadians living with the disease, it is important to raise money for research so that medical science can find better ways to treat it, prevent it, and perhaps cure it.

One way to support MS research is to pledge money for cyclists riding during one of the many biking events that the MS Society hosts during the year, in which thousands of cyclists nationwide ride through some of the most scenic parts of our country.

For Rob McDonald, this will be his third year participating in a MS Bike Tour. From Aug. 26-27, he will be riding during the Gimli event – sometimes known as ‘Biking to the Viking’ – which consists of 90 kilometres in four hours on day one, and 45.1 kilometres in two hours on day two, averaging approximately 27-28 km/h.

“I used to be an avid runner, until four years ago, when I had one of my knees scoped,” said McDonald. “It was about the same time that my better half, Margaret Harris, was diagnosed with MS. I wanted to help out in any way that I could, and that’s when I came across the MS Bike Tour.

“Cycling was a perfect fit for my knee, and now I had a great motivator and purpose to my cycling. Some of my friends think I’m a bit crazy, hitting the pedals at 5 a.m. every morning, but that is the perfect time to cycle, with no wind, no traffic, just tunes, pedals, and pavement.”

McDonald added that he cycled more than 7,000 kilometres last year, with the goal for this year being 10,000.

He is personally aware of multiple people in the Valley that battle this disease.

Amy Kooistra-Redlick, who was diagnosed in January of 2014, shared that MS has changed her life and her family’s life drastically.

“I can’t do things I used to, I find that I’m tired all the time, and very depressed over having this disease,” she said. “(But), you have to live every day like it could be your last. Do the things you want to do and have fun. And, love your family and your friends, as they will be there for you through the good and the bad.

“There is a saying out there that I agree with completely, ‘Don’t mind the scattered thoughts, the blank stares, or the pharmacy in my purse. I’M AN MS WARRIOR!’”

Kooistra-Redlick emphasized the importance of joining the fight to end this disease, known by some as Canada’s disease.

When donations are made, funds are invested into research to find the cause and the cure for the disease, while providing services to Canadians living with MS. Donations can be made online by searching for MS Bike Tour Gimli, with the opportunity to donate to McDonald’s team directly. Cash and cheque offline donations are also accepted, and companies or businesses are also welcome to donate.

“I also personally donate some of my sales from Rob’s ‘Sizzlin’ Hot’ Dogz to the tour,” McDonald added. “Last year, I raised more than $3,000, and this year, I hope to raise $5,000.”

For any questions, or to bring him a donation, McDonald can be contacted at 204·281·1329, or rmac17ster@gmail.com.

“All money raised in Canada stays within the MS Society of Canada, and money raised specifically for the Gimli Bike Tour funds groundbreaking research and provides valuable programs and services for those Manitobans living with MS,” McDonald concluded.

Jeremy Bergen