For the past six years, DeeAnn Simpson has watched from the sidelines as bicyclists peddled in a charity ride for multiple sclerosis research at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. This year, though, Simpson, the event’s organizer, also plans to hop on her own bike to join in the fight against MS.
“My sons and I stood by helplessly as their father battled MS,” she said. “It was heartbreaking to watch his rapid deterioration, and I want to do everything I can to make sure that the disease never strikes my children.”
Simpson will join many biking enthusiasts—and more than a few first-time riders like herself—in the annual Star Bike Ride in Purcell on Saturday, June 9. The event features courses of four different lengths: 8, 25, 53 and 68 miles. Proceeds will benefit MS research at OMRF. And for the seventh straight year, Simpson will direct the event, which she stages with fellow members of the Order of the Eastern Star.
From Simpson’s sunny demeanor, you’d never know that MS has taken a very real toll on her family. Her former husband is one of about 400,000 Americans who suffers from MS, which attacks the body’s central nervous system and can lead to impaired vision, cognitive function and a wide range of other problems.
For many years, the state’s Eastern Star chapters provided financial support to the Masonic Home in Guthrie. After the home closed a few years ago, Eastern Star selected OMRF to receive its funding. A third-generation Eastern Star member, Simpson specifically started the bike ride to introduce the organization to the general public while allowing members to meet new people.
The Star Bike Ride has raised nearly $15,000 for OMRF. “I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to raise for OMRF through the ride,” Simpson said. “I’m hoping to draw even closer to the $20,000 mark this year.” All told, state Eastern Star chapters have donated a total of more than $100,000 to OMRF.
“OMRF is lucky to have dedicated partners in charity like DeeAnn Simpson and the Order of the Eastern Star, “ said Penny Voss, OMRF’s vice president of development. “Thanks to their commitment and generosity, scientists at OMRF are making a real difference in the fight against MS.”
Led by Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., scientists at OMRF are currently investigating the role that a common cold virus may play in bringing about MS. If they are able to establish that this virus (known as Epstein-Barr virus) triggers the disease in some people, it could lead to more effective treatments—and perhaps even a vaccine—for the disease.
The Star Bike Ride begins at 8 a.m. on June 9, and registration opens at 7 a.m. For more information, visit www.starride.info.
Chartered in 1946, OMRF (www.omrf.org) is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease. OMRF’s scientists, who include a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, hold more than 500 U.S. and international patents.