In Presque Isle, A Bike Ride For The Future, Or The Past

by Jen Lynds

I am fortunate to be blessed with an excellent memory, but this  blessing also comes along with a curse.
For me, it is the fact that I don’t have any memories of my aunt walking.
I have very few memories of my aunt at all. She would have been around to offer more, but a disease robbed her of that opportunity.
My aunt, my father’s sister, Darlene, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was in her late teens. The autoimmune disease affects the central nervous system and robs victims of neurological functions, such as walking, talking and swallowing, and complications can lead to death.
Darlene was diagnosed prior to my birth, and her diagnosis was an additional blow to our family, as my great aunt Melody also had been diagnosed with MS around the same time. She is still alive today, slightly diminished but not at all done-in but her illness.
Darlene was not as lucky. She died in 1993, a few days after Thanksgiving, when she was just 43-years-old.
When I look back, the majority of my memories have her sitting on a scooter that she used to get around. Her disease progressed very rapidly, and she was wheelchair bound just a few years after her diagnosis. My grandfather, who lived a short distance away from her, used to help her as much as he could. I remember him being thrilled, a short time before his death, when he held on to her as she walked two steps. He was absolutely over the moon.
He died in 1990, and my aunt went into a health care facility a short time later. By that time, she could no longer speak and had to communicate using a letter board. She often grew frustrated trying to get hands that no longer functioned to point to letters on that board. There were lots of tears.
That is what I remember.
As I grew older, I couldn’t forget that sadness, that struggle. Although the realization that I had no memories of her walking haunted me, the fact that I had never been able to give her anything during her life gutted me more.
Then, four years ago, I discovered the Bike MS ride in Standish. The ride raises money for the National MS Society, Greater New England chapter. I took part that year and every year since, riding between 100 and 150 miles each year and raising more than $5,000. More than 400 riders took place in this year’s ride, raising $252,775.
A similar ride to raise money for a different cause will take place in Presque Isle this weekend, Aug. 11 and 12. Ride Aroostook 2012 begins and ends on the University of Maine at Presque Isle campus. The 150 mile, two day ride takes place over two days and offers participants full support, rest areas, first aid, and mechanical services.
The  second annual ride helps support Camp Adventure, a one-of-a-kind summer camp for children with Type 1 Diabetes. Last year, 73 riders raised more than $16,000.
All funds raised will be directed to the camp. Over the past 14 years, the camp has provided a life-changing experience for children with Type 1 Diabetes, and each year children are turned away due to a lack of resources to cover cost of staff and supplies. Camp officials want to expand the facility to include more children and Ride Aroostook will help them do it.
Cary Medical Center has partnered with First Giving to accept online registrations and donations, and to provide each registrant with their own personalized Ride Aroostook fundraising webpage. You can register for the event online at www.ridearoostook.org/event/register/. Alternatively, you may telephone 207-498-1112 and register for on-site check in.
It is not too late for anyone to take part in this event.
Even if you do not know someone suffering from Type 1 Diabetes, you can help those who will be diagnosed in the future.
Or, you could ride in memory of someone that you could not help in the past.
More information about Ride Aroostook can be found online at www.ridearoostook.org.