KIRKLAND – Dawn Carlson of Kirkland has volunteered for the annual Bike MS Tour de Farms, which helps raise money in the fight against multiple sclerosis, for five years by hosting the first rest stop of the two-day bike ride.
Because of her work, Carlson became the first local volunteer to serve on the event’s planning committee and was named volunteer of the year by the Illinois chapter of the National MS Society, which holds Bike MS events across the nation.
“It’s a great thing for [my family] to be involved with,” Carlson said. “I have lived here for 19 years, and the whole time we would see bike riders go by in the summer and I didn’t know what it was for, but I saw an article that it was for MS. I then happened to call the MS Society to let us know if you want to use our farm for anything.”
The opening ceremony for riders participating in the 50- to 125-mile routes will be at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center. A second ceremony for those doing the 15- and 35-mile routes will be at 8:30 a.m. All riders should be on the road by 9 a.m.
On Sunday, riders are expected to begin their routes at 9 a.m. at the Convocation Center.
Shannon Feeney, Bike MS development coordinator, said there will be about 1,200 registered cyclists participating this year, and none of the roads on the route will be blocked off to car traffic. She said, however, that drivers should be aware of the bikers.
Carlson said she volunteers to honor the memory of her mother, Ione Gibson, who died from complications of MS in 2012, and her father, Harold, who took care of his wife and even built a handicap-accessible home for her.
As a tribute, Carlson’s group of volunteers, known as Ione’s Busy Bees, place little bee signs in her front yard that cyclists can then mark with the reason they are participating.
“Everyone has a story,” Carlson said. “No one is out here just because they wanted to go on a 100-mile bike ride. They are all connected.”
Other features of the Carlson rest stop include an expanded petting zoo, live music from the Miller Brothers out of Chicago, and plenty of refreshments.
Saturday’s route has seven rest stops with an additional water stop. There are only five Sunday.
Carlson said her rest stop has been voted as the best for three years in a row and has had many riders say they wish hers was the last one on the route, so they could stay longer.
Her Saturday starts at about 5 a.m. with about 40 volunteers, many from her church, Mayfield Congregational in Sycamore, brewing coffee and setting up. Multiple times, pallets full of of ice, tents, tables, food and water will be delivered.
Volunteers with the National MS Society also are on hand to provide any weather or road conditions, as well as make supply runs.
Carlson’s husband, John, said he is always amazed by the choreography of the event and how smoothly everything runs. Dawn added that the riders are so respectful that she never has to pick up banana peels or any loose garbage. Breakfast and lunch is served to all of the riders, and showers are made available.
Once the last rider goes by, which Carlson said is usually about noon, she will return to NIU to cheer on the last finishers.
Last year, the Bike MS Tour de Farms raised more than $1.45 million for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Greater Illinois Chapter.