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Soldiers gear up for MS bike ride

Fort Benning Soldiers Terry Rafael, Seth Gruenewald and Daniel Hindman are gearing up for the 24th annual Bike Multiple Sclerosis Cox Atlanta Ride Sept. 10-11 at Callaway Gardens.

The two-day cycling event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Georgia Chapter of the National MS Society, said Ailena Parramore, director of special events.

The team rides when it can, usually 60 miles over the span of three days per week.

Rafael, the team captain for Team United States Army Fort Benning, participates in as many yearly MS fundraisers as he can. His wife, Cindy, was diagnosed with MS in 2005. Since then, he has been a support group leader and an advocate for the MS Society. Rafael said he knows of at least 20 people with the disease.

“Most people who have MS don’t have the opportunity to ride, but we can ride for them,” he said. “The most important part of this event is to raise money to fight MS. The more we understand about MS, the better.”A little money can go along way, Rafael said.

“If everyone contributes a dollar, it will add up,” he said.

Sixty percent of the ride proceeds stays in the Georgia chapter to pay for MS education, support groups and caregiver training, while 40 percent goes to the national office to fund MS research.

Every rider is required to raise at least $250 for the MS Society before the day of the event.

Gruenewald said raising money is the least he can do. He joined the team after he saw a flyer about it at work.“A couple of my friends were diagnosed with MS,” he said. “I figured the ride is for a good a cause and I could help out with it.”

Gruenewald said he is looking forward to the scenic route, which winds through Callaway Gardens and Pine Mountain, Ga.

The riding trio, who are all with the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, is seeking at least one more member for their team, but three would be ideal, Gruenewald said.

“This ride is for everyone,” he said. “You don’t have to be a hardcore athlete to help out the cause.”

Rafael said the team needs riders as soon as possible. Each rider must be at least 18 years old.

Rafael said even if cyclists don’t want to be on the team, he encourages them to ride.

Parramore said she is expecting between 1300 to 1500 cyclists this year.

Cyclists can choose to ride as individuals or on teams for 35-, 65- or 100-mile distances Sept. 10 and 25- and 65-mile distances on Sept. 11. Registration for adults is $50.

There will be a separate ride, Bike MS Jr., for children ages 5-11. Children must raise $150 before the event. Registration for children is $25.The event will kick off with a street festival Sept. 10 in downtown Pine Mountain, Ga., where riders can pick up event packets. The festival includes dinner and music.

Events on both days begin at 8 a.m. The ride will begin at Callaway Gardens at the Robin Lake Beach Gate. Volunteers, including medics, are needed.

For more information or to register, visit Bikemsgeorgia.org or call 1-800-fight MS.

If you are interested in joining Rafael’s team, call him at 334-704-3063 or e-mail terry.rafael1@us.army.mil.

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