Three hundred miles in five days on a bicycle…who is up for the challenge? The Bike MS: TRAM Ride 2012 is scheduled for July 22-27. The 23rd annual event will begin in Bemidji and take cyclists on a nearly 300-mile journey through northwestern Minnesota into the Central Lakes region where it will end in Alexandria. The event is a National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Upper Midwest Chapter event. The funds raised from the event go to support vital programs and direct financial services to those affected by MS and their families as well as cutting-edge research for the Upper Midwest area. One group of women accepting this year’s challenge is part of a team that began three years ago when Lorna Erickson of Alexandria strived to conquer a dream of cycling a long-distance event. “It was something on my bucket list that I wanted to do before I turned 60,” shared Erickson. The 58-year-old began training for the Bike MS: TRAM 2010. This adventure would be a challenge with participants cycling 45 to 60 miles each day. Her motivation for choosing the MS fundraiser was a friend from church who had MS. In addition, that year’s TRAM started and ended in Alexandria. Erickson’s daughter, Anje Williams of Alexandria, asked to join her mom on the ride, “Just to be a part of something bigger than me and spend a week with my mom was priceless,” she explained. Williams invited her friend Rhonda Issendorf of Brandon to join the 2010 team and she gladly accepted as she had family members with MS. Leigha VanderTuin of Alexandria rounded out the 2010 team of four. Erickson has fond memories and recalled being excited to begin the ride each day. She also felt great joy in accomplishing this feat. She met many wonderful people throughout the experience. The community support of the ride and its participants was overwhelming. The route spanned the state on county roads and as the cyclists rode into the host communities on the route they were greeted with smiles, cowbells and cheering. She recalled one day when a random kind-hearted woman stood at the top of a hill between Little Falls and Alexandria with a cooler filled with freeze pops. She handed them to the riders as they passed by. There were challenges on the ride, which at times included the terrain, but the Alexandria woman held close the scripture verse: “I can do everything through Christ, who strengthens me.” Erickson is happy she completed her bucket list item because meeting people with MS, some who even rode in the event, and being a part of raising money for MS was an unforgettable experience. And although some physical restrictions keep her from participating in the TRAM now, she stays involved with today’s team. The 2012 team has named itself Easy to Remember and is led by Rhonda Issendorf. Anje Williams also continues to ride. Joining them are Holly Mensendiek of Kansas City, Kan.; Sue Holbert of Omaha, Neb. and LaNell Hardy, Chara Anderson, Rachelle Pfeffer and Carie Stotesbery all of Alexandria. The team is gearing up for the event and collecting contributions. Each team member must pay a registration fee and collect a minimum of $300 in their fundraising efforts. The women have a team goal of $8,000. By having this goal, each member will reach at least $1,000 and be a Golden Gear member. Fun incentives are offered to riders of the TRAM based on the level of contributions they collect. As a Golden Gear member, cyclists receive a special jersey and access to Pete’s Hoopla Tent during the ride. This tent offers riders a sort of “pampering” with much desired cold beverages, special treats, lounge chairs and more. Some of the incentives may seem small, but to the participants who ride up to 60 miles each day, the yellow wristband that allows them access to specially designated portable toilets is no small perk. The team plans to continue its journey of raising money and awareness for multiple sclerosis. And Issendorf hopes to have her daughters ride with her when they are 12 and old enough to participate. “I have family members and now friends I have met in doing the TRAM who live with MS,” said Issendorf. “And I say ‘living with’ rather than ‘struggling with’ because living means you are going on.” Donations for the team’s efforts may be sent to LaNell Hardy, 4000 Colorado Circle SE, Alexandria, MN 55308. Checks can be made payable to the MS Society. Donations are also accepted by donating to a rider by visiting the website www.nationalmssociety.org and searching for the July 22-27, 2012 Bike MS: TRAM. About multiple sclerosis The National MS Society’s website describes multiple sclerosis as a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord). It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. This means the immune system incorrectly attacks the person’s healthy tissue. MS can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness and more. These problems may be permanent or may come and go. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75 have developed it. MS is not considered a fatal disease as the vast majority of people with it live a normal lifespan. But they may struggle to live as productively as they desire, often facing increasing limitations. For more information regarding MS or the Bike MS: TRAM Ride 2012 visit the website www.nationalmssociety.org or call National Multiple Sclerosis Society at 1-800-582-5296.