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MS Bike tour takes $2M goal into year 29

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

 Last year the CFD Cyclpaths -- (back row from left) Bob Jonson, Tanya Jonson, Paul Gibson, Patrick St. Dennis, Jeff Knopf, Ben Paulson; (front) Jaden Olson, Rob Olson --raised $2,500 for the MS Bike Tour. This year they are hoping to top that amount. Supplied

Last year the CFD Cyclpaths -- (back row from left) Bob Jonson, Tanya Jonson, Paul Gibson, Patrick St. Dennis, Jeff Knopf, Ben Paulson; (front) Jaden Olson, Rob Olson --raised $2,500 for the MS Bike Tour. This year they are hoping to top that amount. Supplied

When Ben Paulson signed up for the MS Bike Tour last year, he did not quite understand what he was committing to.

He and six of his smoking eating brethren from the Camrose Fire Department though they were just setting fitness goals and helping a good cause without really knowing what that cause was all about.

It did not take long for his eyes to be opened. Just in the fundraising process he had a number of people open up to him about their direction connection to the disease, that let him know how common the disease is. Then, while actually completing the 180-kilometre tour, he experienced a snippet of what those who are afflicted with the disease experience on a daily basis.

"The stiffness and the uncomfortableness of doing a long duration ride is supposed to simulate or reflect some of the symptoms that some of these folks are going through with the disease. I had no idea about that," he said. "Since thine the actual cause has become a little more important to us knowing now more about the disease and the people affected by it."

Paulson will be taking part in this year's Leduc to Camrose tour on June 9 and 10 once again, this time joined by firefighters Capt. Jeff Knopf, Lt. Paul Gibson, Lt. Rob Olson and his Jaden Olson, while his brothers Tim and Scott Paulson, who he works with at Align Builders, will be joining team CFD Cyclepaths.

The race is split up into two days, breaking it down into 90-kilomtre halves, taking off from Nisku and cycling to the Camrose Regional Exhibition for the night. The next morning they start the return trip. Organizers are expecting about 1,700 participants this year, while last years event had those as young as 10 and as old as 87 completing the course. Their goal is to raise $2 million this year.

Overnight at the CRE, the MS Society hosts a riders village with entertainment, food trucks, a banquet and guest speakers who talk about the cause and how the cause and the disease has impacted their life. Following the banquet the part continues until 11:30 p.m. The trick is getting back up the next morning for the final 90-kilometre ride.

"It's kind of like a festival atmosphere out there," said MS Bike manager Nicole Gasior. "Our top teams have tents set up and they go all out. Some bring in hot tubs, they have massage therapists, they have snacks, they have drinks, music, it' just a super fun area to be a part of."

Canada has the highest rates of Multiple Sclerosis in the world and Alberta has some of the highest rates in the country. The funds from Johnson MS Bike go to support research, patient care and support and advocacy throughout the country.

According to, MS attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and often damaging the myelin. Myelin is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses through nerve fibres. If damage to myelin is slight, nerve impulses travel with minor interruptions; however, if damage is substantial and if scar tissue replaces the myelin, nerve impulses may be completely disrupted, and the nerve fibres themselves can be damaged.

MS is unpredictable and can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes. Its effects can be physical, emotional and financial. Currently there is no cure, but each day researchers are learning more about what causes MS and are zeroing in on ways to prevent it.

The Leduc to Camrose tour is the most successful in the country and has run for 28 years. Gasior credits the level of support for the race in the area as 400-500 people take up the task of putting on the event which includes running checkpoints all long the rout and making Saturday night a lot of fun.

It worked for Paulson and his team, they are now hooked.

"It wasn't just strictly cycling, it was a really relaxing weekend," he said. "Now we look at it more as a weekend event rather than just a cycling tour."

Registrations will be accepted for the race with a minimum $300 in funds raised, though donations will roll in until Sept. 30 as some participants host golf tournaments, barbecues and pub nights to raise funds. For more information or to pledge money to an individual or team go to  

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