On August 24 and 25, 2019, Team Susanna will once again bike 130 km to raise money and awareness for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. As this will be our 9th year riding with Team Susanna for the M.S. Society, some might wonder, why do I keep riding?
Team Susanna has become much more than a charity bike team to me. What began as a tribute to my mother, Susanna Johnson has evolved into something I never quite intended. Originally, I just wanted to find a way to support my mother after her M.S. diagnosis. The feeling of powerlessness to help someone you love... let alone one of the most giving and unconditionally loving people I've ever known... lead me to wanting to raise money for services and support in her honour. I wanted her to know how great she is, and I wanted others to see that too. To be honest, it was likely as much my need to feel I was doing something to help, as it was a tribute to her. I saw all the amazing things the M.S. Society was doing to help her, and I wanted to support that. But after participanting for several years, the experiences have altered how I view myself and people in general as well.
The M.S. Bike Tour is one of those glorious examples where what is selfishly fun for you, what is beneficial for your personal growth, and what is good for a much larger community is one in the same. I have never once known someone who biked along side us and left disappointed that they participated. People use the tour as an "excuse" to bike more and get healthy. They expand their perceptions of what is possible for themselves, and this can changes how they view other opportunities in their lives. They surprise themselves. They strengthen their mental and physical resilience. They get to enjoy the intoxicated effect of being surrounded by hundreds of cyclists who have dedicated a weekend to do something for a cause. On top of all these personal benefits, participating in one event also makes it far more likely people will participate in other community events, and obviously, it benefits the M.S. Society.
Every single teammate we've had has been proud they took that one weekend of the year to get out, and do something that benefits their community and themselves. Before the tour, many team members are nervous; after the tour, they were so happy they joined, and talked of how well they will do next year, and how much they hope to raise more money. Every year there are people who join the tour who do not even OWN bikes, and others who BOUGHT A BIKE simply for the tour, which I find incredibly inspiring.
Since my mother's diagnosis the M.S. Society had done invaluable things for my mother. They've funded research, but they've also created many programs to help individuals who live every day with M.S. This includes services from free counselling, to low cost zumba, yoga, and aqua fitness classes that are designed to accommodate the mobility issues accompanying M.S., to such creative events like bringing a Transit Bus to the M.S. Society and allowing those with mobility challenges the benefit and dignity to practice getting on and off the bus in a safe and supportive environment. What people often don't know is the M.S. Society is almost entirely self-funded, meaning in order for them to exist, they need to raise their own funding, and one of the major ways they do this is through special events like Bike Tours. To be blunt; without wonderful people participating, volunteering, and donating, the M.S. Society doesn't exist.
People ask me all the time, why do I ride? Well... the truth is that at this point, I can't NOT ride. It doesn't feel like a choice any more. I can't not ride... because I CAN ride.
Though the MS Bike tour is certainly an accomplishable feat for all skill and fitness levels, those who bike the tour all have their moments when fatigue hits them, and I'm no different. I will bike 80 km and back again the next day. I will be tired, sore, exhausted, possibly ravaged by the weather, and at moments the thought will cross my mind... why am I doing this? Then I will think of my mother. You see, physical activities like cycling, sports, or even dancing, are things my mother simply can't do anymore. They are privileges she no longer shares. I invite you to ponder that with me. Imagine the exhaustion you feel after cycling for hours, or that self conscious feeling we've all felt dancing, and know that the ability to feel those things, is a privilege. We're lucky. Most of us don't have to factor in planning our day by thinking about how our excessive fatigue will affect us. Or ponder whether those 5 or 6 steps in a stairway are feeling manageable today. That's what M.S. does. We take these things for granted until those freedoms are under threat, myself included.
This bike tour doesn't allow me to do that. It doesn't allow me to complain about the opportunity to cycle myself exhausted. It reminds me to embrace that feeling, to appreciate it, and to know that as the privileged individual, I have a responsibility to not take that for granted, not waste that gift, and use it for the benefit of others.
By agreeing to participate and support this MS Bike Tour, you all agreed not to waste that gift. You agreed to do something for your community, to benefit others, to push yourself, to become a better person, and help keep an organization running that has helped so many people. By riding, volunteering, or donating you honour me, my mother, and everyone else who's ever been affected by M.S. I don't think there will be anyone who participates who'll regret the experience, and I am privileged to thank you all for seeing the value in such a fantastic event, both for yourselves, and the community.
If anyone else would like to join us on our journey this year, send me a message (firstname.lastname@example.org). I promise you... it'll be a time you'll never forget. ;)
If you are a member of this team and would like to customize this page with a special message or team photo, please contact us and we can designate you as the team captain.