Shannon Jones, raised in White Hall but more recently a resident of Arizona, will bicycle through her home town June 4 on her way across America with the 2011 Bike the U.S. for MS tour.
The fundraising adventure, which will cross the country for the fourth summer, will give its proceeds to the James Q. Miller Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Medicine to support research and treatment. Some money will go to pay for modification projects needed in the homes of MS patients across the United States. Cyclists will also stop along the way to do service projects for MS patients living along the route.
MS affects the central nervous system, the brain and the spinal column. In MS patients, the myelin sheath that insulates neurons is eroded and the nerve within it is damaged. Nerve signaling can slow down or cease. It is believed the disease is caused by mistaken immune system attacks on the myelin cells, repeatedly inflamming them. As more myelin cells break down, unpredictable symptoms appear, ranging from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The disease has no cure and affects more women than men. It typically first appears between the ages of 20 and 40. About 400,000 Americans are affected by the disease. The bike tour was first organized in 2007 by Virginia Tech biologist Don Fraser, whose mother suffers from MS.
Cyclists seek donation pledges from donors. Jones is hoping to raise at least $5,000 herself. She will be among 24 riders pedaling from Yorktown to San Francisco—3,785 miles, averaging 62 miles per day—by way of St. Louis and Colorado. The trip will take two months. Jones will pass through Crozet in the morning as the tour proceeds from Charlottesville over Afton Mountain to Vesuvius. Another group of cyclists will ride from Maine through Chicago to Seattle and a third group will go down the Pacific coast from Seattle to San Diego. So far, the cyclists have raised a total of about $56,000.
Jones, a UNC grad, recently left the business world to get a master’s degree in psychological counseling. “I can’t get enough of being outdoors and I’m eager to see America one crank at a time,” she said. “Life is short, as people affected by MS know all too well. There is no time like the present.
“It is really rewarding to raise money for the U.Va. MS clinic because I personally know people in Crozet and Charlottesville that have MS and use this facility,” Jones said. “Many of my donations have come from people who are donating in honor of friends and family they know with MS. I am creating a bike jersey with the names of all the people that I am riding in honor of so they can ride with me in spirit.”
Donations can be made online on Jones’s tour profile page, www.biketheusforms.org/cyclists, or checks payable to “Bike the US for MS” can be mailed (with Jones’s name in the memo space) to: Bike the US for MS, 1302 Gladewood Dr., Blacksburg, VA 24060. The tour’s tax ID number is 27-2192426.