Spinning Wheels to Raise Money for MS

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By David Gibbons Check your tire pressure, lube that chain, rinse out your trusty old water bottle: There's still plenty of time to sign up for one of the city's favorite outdoor mass participatory events, the Oct. 21 bike ride to benefit the fight against multiple sclerosis. Formerly known as the MS Bike Tour, Bike MS NYC was inaugurated in 1985 and has since become a premier regional fundraiser. The ride is organized by the local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (New York City-Southern New York), which serves the 10,000 people living with MS in the five boroughs as well as Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties. MS is a progressive debilitating disease in which the body's immune system attacks the central nervous system, interrupting important signals and causing an unpredictable variety of symptoms ranging from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. It is usually diagnosed in young adulthood and there is no known cause or cure. Between 400,000 and half a million Americans have been diagnosed with MS; the disease affects more than 2 million people worldwide. Bike MS NYC features a 30-mile traffic-free circumnavigation of Manhattan, as well as two other longer options. Last year, it drew about 4,500 cyclists who raised roughly $2.5 million; this year's projected 5,000 riders are expected to cross the $3 million threshold. Although participants are individually responsible for soliciting and submitting donations, many of them organize themselves into teams for the ride. Some of the larger ones come from brand-name Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley as well as other corporate heavy-hitters. There are also numerous strong fundraisers in the Friends and Family category. All tap into a spirit of friendly competition in service of a good cause. Among the many remarkable individual riders is Veronica "Ronnie" McTiernan, 61, a social worker and children's behavior therapist from Tarrytown. McTiernan was an avid cyclist and veteran of long tours in places like New Mexico and Ireland; she also completed the Boston-to-New York AIDS ride. After a cycling accident and knee surgery in the mid-1990s, she started to lose strength in her right leg, which curtailed her riding. As is typical in MS cases, it took many doctor's office visits and tests over several years before her MS diagnosis was finally confirmed, in 2004. McTiernan and her friend Karen Kosits organized a team they dubbed "Vicious Cyclers," largely spurred on by physical therapist Herb Karpatkin, an MS specialist based in Midtown. "Herb worked with me to develop a home exercise program, and he taught me it's important to do it every day," said McTiernan. "He wanted me to get back on my bike and he was the one who suggested I do the MS ride. I told him, 'If I'm going to ride 30 miles around New York City, you're coming with me!'" Karpatkin rides every year; McTiernan calls him "Coach," and he calls her "Cap'n." The Vicious Cyclers fielded about 15 riders for the 2011 event and are expecting to double that turnout this year, their eighth; they've raised a cumulative total of $91,000 as of this writing, with a goal of $110,000. The team includes Merrill Hesch, another patient of Karpatkin's, as well as Hesch's husband, Richard Pieper, their son Aidan, and McTiernan's orthopedic physical therapist Adam Pliskow. McTiernan is modest about her inspirational role: "People have said that, but I know I don't feel like it. Personally, I just want to live a good life. If [my participation] helps somebody else get up and move a little more, if it helps them realize they can do more than they think they can, then that makes me happy. I don't like being sad, so I'm going to do everything I can to be happy. "There are a lot of reasons I look forward to the ride every year. Part of it is to see if I can do it again. For friends of mine who don't live nearby, who don't see me every day and who may know some of the physical struggles I go through-and for my donors, too-it's so they can see I'm hanging in there, I'm doing OK. Also, it's important to spread the awareness, that there are treatments and medications that can help, that we're getting closer to a cure, perhaps some way to restore nerve function." Steven Radoslovich, 31, of Tudor City, has been the leading individual fundraiser for the past two years, chalking up more than $54,000 in 2011. "This year I'm trying for my third in a row, and it's going well," he said. "I don't know if it's going to happen, but I'm going to do my best." His wife, Dianna Fiore Radoslovich, 35, was diagnosed with MS in 2008, and he started his No MS'n Around team soon after. They have two sons, Steven Andrew, 2 and a half, and Matthew Carmine, 1. Radoslovich works with his father-in-law Carmine Fiore in trucking insurance. Fiore solicits donations from longtime business associates and has pledged to match all funds raised by his son-in-law. "I can't take sole credit," said Radoslovich. "It's definitely a team effort. My wife is very big on the fundraising, too. When she's not at doctor's appointments or taking care of the kids, she's posting on Facebook and asking for donations." Their cycling team is also a family effort, with cousins from both sides joining up. "This year we're expecting 27 riders-a lot of friends and family. My wife did it two years ago, and she jokingly said she was the last one to finish. She's going to try again this year, depending on how she feels. "I do this for my wife and for the society, which has done so much for us in the short time since she received her diagnosis. We're trying to support the society so it can continue all the services it provides for everybody living with MS-all the legal, financial and family services-but also raise money for research and a cure." The 2012 Bike MS NYC ride begins shortly after 7 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21, rain or shine; its assembly, start and finish point is Pier 92/94 (near the Hudson River and 53rd Street). The traditional 30-mile loop skirts the outline of Manhattan, clockwise, following the West Side Highway, the FDR and connecting streets. The two longer routes take the highway to the Holland Tunnel, cross over to Jersey City, then trace the western banks of the river past Hoboken, Weehawken and up picturesque River Road along the Palisades. The 55-mile route turns back in the vicinity of Piermont. The 100-mile one loops around and turns back south between Stony Point and Harriman, just this side of Bear Mountain State Park. All three routes afford spectacular views of the city and environs. If you're unable to participate but want to help out anyway, other options include signing up as a virtual rider or a support volunteer. For more information on the ride, to register or simply make a donation, visit the website bikenyn.nationalmssociety.org.

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