DeKALB – More than 2,500 bicyclists descended on DeKalb and neighboring towns Saturday and will continue today as part of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois Chapter’s Bike MS: Tour de Farms fundraiser.
Chapter president John Blazek said the organization expects to raise more than $1.5 million, an amount that would not be possible without the teams Tour de Farms brings out.
“Teamwork is one of the core values of our organization, and teams are what raise the most money for this event,” Blazek said. “I know that individually we can do some things, but together as a team we can do amazing things. That’s what I see out here, it's teamwork.”
MS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the neurons in the brain and the spinal cord. Symptoms vary person to person, as each MS attack can have different effects and ramifications.
A person with MS can have an attack at any time, but that was not stopping Paul Leguillon, a 39-year-old graduate student at Northern Illinois University, from participating in Tour de Farms.
“Anything can happen, but what are you going to do?” Leguillon said. “And that’s why we do this, so that we can hopefully try to improve the medicines out there or find a cure.”
Leguillon rode with his family and friends in his eighth MS cycling event under the team name “MS DOS,” a reference to his computer science background. Leguillon said his 10-member team raised more than $7,000 for Tour de Farms.
A lot of teams were out in force for Saturday’s ride. Some of them were based on companies, such as Team United or Morgan Stanley. And then there were others such as the Pedal Heads or Wheeler Dealers, who got to sit at the starting line for being the No. 1 fundraising team in 2011.
Some chose to ride solo, like Lee Neubauer, a 52-year-old police officer from Tinley Park. She has a number of friends who have MS, so she has raised more than $3,000 a year for the past eight years.
“The more you get, the better it gets,” Neubauer said. “And what we’re trying to do is the more we can raise, the quicker we can end MS. And while we’re not putting an end to it, we can get the people the tools that they need to get around and make their lives a whole lot easier.”
Tour de Farms has different routes for cyclists to tackle. The farthest route took cyclists as far as away as Hampshire. Between the two days, a person can bike up to 200 miles at Tour de Farms.
This year’s event marked the first time the bicyclists ride through downtown DeKalb, something Blazek said he was especially thankful for.
“We want people to know that we appreciate them, allowing us to use roads and welcoming us into their community, and we feel like we are members of their community,” Blazek said. “It does cause some inconveniences with traffic ... but I hope they know we are appreciative.”