June 15, 2010
The Utah chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society is holding its 24th Annual Bike MS: "Harmons Best Dam Bike Ride 2010," at the Cache County Fairgrounds June 26-27. The event is a bicycle ride fundraiser, not a ride, and is Utah’s largest cycling fundraiser with over 3,000 cyclists raising over $1.6 million in 2009.
For the upcoming ride, David Bernstein, a Park City resident and the creator of "Fredcast," an immensely popular cycling podcast, will be riding with his two daughters, Meghan and Emily, in support of their mother, Donna Bernstein, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis seven years ago.
David recalls walking with his family in Central Park on a sightseeing tour and his wife having a increasingly difficult time walking and struggling with fatigue. He handed her his cell phone and insisted she call her doctor and make an appointment. Shortly afterwards they had a diagnosis: Donna had MS.
A neurodegenerative disease, multiple sclerosis affects more than 400,000 Americans and 2.5 million people worldwide. Symptoms of MS vary among individuals and both the severity and progression of the disease are hard to predict, but symptoms include severe fatigue, tingling or numbness of limbs, even blindness and paralysis. The disease affects nearly twice as many women as men and Utah has one of the highest incidence rates with 1 in 300 Utahns affected by multiple sclerosis.
Bernstein is an ex-bicycle industry executive and a cycling aficionado, or "Fred," as he prefers. A "Fred" is typically a derogatory term in cycling jargon for a dilettante who spends exorbitant amounts of money on his bicycle and accoutrements but who isn’t actually much of a capable cyclist. Bernstein, however, has taken ownership of the term. He seems to believe that a passion for gear, equipment and tech isn’t necessarily contradictory with serious cycling "chops" like hill climbing and sprinting prowess.
The website describes the mission behind his podcast, saying "I have been called a Fred time after time, especially by people who see my high-end Italian road bike and all of my cycling gadgets and gizmos. I have always taken the term as one of endearment and not one of scorn, since I usually ride faster than those who call me a Fred, and so it has become a badge of honor."
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Bernstein got serious about fundraising for MS after his wife’s diagnosis. He says that his first concern was about stabilizing her and making certain she was keeping a medication regimen. With that in place, he started wondering how he could help fighting the disease in other ways, he says.
At the time he was living in California and only had a mountain bike, so he bought a road bike and got involved. There was not a Bike MS ride where he lived in Los Angeles yet, so he helped organize one and raise money for the event and his passion grew from there.
His daughters both rode in a ride with him in California and he said of the experience that "[Meghan and Emily] are not cyclists; they get out there to help Mom. It was amazing to see how Donna responded to them doing this for her. They don’t love being on a bike but they love doing this for their Mom."
Team Fredcast has grown as listeners of the podcast and others have organized teams under the team Fredcast jersey. There are up to eight different Fredcast teams around the country riding and raising money, said Bernstein. The Utah chapter’s Bike MS ride will be the first for the family since moving to Utah. Both daughters have already joined "Headquarter" Team Fredcast here in Park City and will be participating in the coming Utah Bike MS ride.
Bernstein said they’ve raised over $100,000 so far for the National MS society and he believes that current advances in medications and treatment of the disease have been directly affected by the fundraising efforts of team Fredcast and the other teams in Utah and around the country. He said a doctor said to him that "it sucks to have MS, but now is the time to do so."
More than 160 teams have registered to ride in the Utah event as of June.
Sign up online at http://www.bikemsutah.org or the day of the ride at the fairgrounds. There is a minimum fundraising goal of $250. Volunteers are asked to register in advance.