Nobody ever said fighting a disease couldn’t be fun.
Since 2001, DeeAnn Simpson has organized the Eastern Star Bike Ride to increase awareness of multiple sclerosis and to raise funds to research the disease at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. And at this year’s edition of the ride, which takes place on Saturday, Simpson hopes that participants will once again partake of the homemade baked goods—including her mother’s cinnamon rolls—awaiting bikers at rest stops.
“It’s not a race,” Simpson said. “It’s just a fun time for families to ride their bikes and help us raise money to fight MS.”
Multiple sclerosis has touched Simpson’s family, afflicting her former husband and casting a shadow over the lives of her sons.
“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.”
This year, Simpson found she wasn’t the only one with a connection to MS. When her group approached the Naples Trading Post near Tabler, Okla., about serving as a rest stop, she learned the owner suffered from MS.
“Everywhere I go, someone knows somebody or has a family member with MS,” she said. In fact, about 400,000 Americans suffer from the disease, which attacks the body’s central nervous system and can lead to impaired vision, cognitive function and a wide range of other problems.
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 bike ride features four routes of 8, 25, 53 and 68 miles with rest stops set up along the way for riders to refuel and relax, Simpson said. Proceeds will benefit MS research at OMRF. Since its inception, the ride has raised $18,000 to support MS research at OMRF.
Located in Oklahoma City, OMRF is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. In addition to MS, its scientists also focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.
The Star Bike Ride begins at 8 a.m. on June 14, and registration opens at 7 a.m. For more information, visit www.starride.info.