By MADDY VITALE
Adam Stein has had multiple sclerosis for four and a half years. He is just 29. After the diagnosis, Stein got on a regimen to keep up his health.
“I follow a protocol for overcoming MS. It is a holistic approach to keep my health up to fight MS,” Stein said, adding that doctor-prescribed medications are also important. “It is not always easy.”
Stein and his family were part of the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride on Saturday. They were among 4,000 cyclists who took the trek from Cherry Hill, Mays Landing and Hammonton to Ocean City to raise money for programs and research in hopes of finding a cure for MS.
Cyclists and their teams raised $4 million as of Saturday afternoon for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and it was likely to increase throughout the day.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord, the central nervous system.
Stein’s girlfriend, Ellie Goetz, 28, also of Philadelphia, turned to look at Adam and said, “He is doing really good.”
Her brother, Sam Goetz, and father, Rob Goetz, joined Stein’s brother, Elliot Stein, and parents, Diane and Eric Stein, to create, “Team Adam.”
The families biked from Mays Landing, a 20-mile route to Ocean City in Bike MS. They even asked Claudia Dorn, of Mays Landing, who was biking in her first Bike MS ever, to join their team and she did.
“It was very nice to ride with them and to see a young man with MS riding and doing so well,” Dorn said. “It was a wonderful experience.”
There were two other routes, the one through Cherry Hill — a 75-mile and 100-mile route — and a 40-mile route from Hammonton. Ocean City is always the finish line for the thousands of cyclists who raise their hands in victory as crowds cheer them on each year.
The finish line at Fifth Street and the Boardwalk is adjacent to the parking lot by the Sports & Civic Center. It was opened to cyclists who gathered with their families to chat, get something to eat and pick up T-shirts to commemorate the milestone.
Barbara Anderson, 51, of Paramus, N.J., and her friend, Lynn Veenstra, 57, of North Haledon, N.J., participated in their first Bike MS. They left from the Hammonton route.
Anderson was diagnosed with MS in 2018 and since then, she, like Adam Stein, has worked on the holistic approach to staying well. She focuses on a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise.
“When I first learned I had MS, I would wake up and wonder what was going to happen to me,” Anderson explained. “I am actually doing great. I stay healthy and active. It really gives me a new perspective on things.”
For Veenstra, it was a personal goal of hers to join in something that would benefit her friend and others, as well as herself.
“It really was two-fold why I did Bike MS,” she noted. “It was to raise money for MS and also I have had my own health issues, so it was a personal goal to get back to biking.”
Anderson and Veenstra were part of the MOR Wealth Management team, one of the Top 5 fundraisers for the event, they said.
Anderson was also an individual top fundraiser.
“Honestly, donations were coming in through Facebook when I was riding over the bridge into Ocean City,” Anderson said. “It was such a cool feeling.”
Dana Gold, a representative of Bike MS, said she was so excited by the number of new cyclists that joined Bike MS this year, approximately 800.
Gold noted that the minimum fundraising amount needed to participate is $300, and many exceed that goal.
She added that there is a robust “rookie ride” program to help new riders with raising funds and navigating the route.
Gold said she believes that the reason for the impressive number of new participants has, in part, to do with the positive reputation of the Bike MS organization.
“We have loyal teams, and we also have a whole lot of volunteers for the program,” she added.
One of the loyal volunteers is longtime fundraiser and volunteer for Bike MS, Matt Ramer, of Philadelphia.
Ramer raised the most money to fight MS for the 2021 event, as he did in 2018. He was also one of the top fundraisers for this year’s event, Gold noted. And each year he volunteers to take photos of the event.
Marisa Hull, vice president of Bike MS, who watched as the riders were crossing the finish line, said that this year’s event was shaping up to be a major success, one of the biggest in its 43 years.
“This is really one of the first full years since the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hull said of the event’s cancellation in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. “We are really excited about riders coming into Ocean City.” This is the second-largest Bike MS in the world.”
Hull said that Ocean City as a community has truly welcomed the Bike MS participants and organizers.
She added that the significance of the event can be far reaching.
“Being a participant, you are helping people who are living with MS. You are helping the world,” Hull said.
And for the riders, such as Adam Stein and Barbara Anderson, who have MS and participate in the event, Hull said this, “It inspires others to see someone with MS riding.”
Stein said he hopes to be a part of the Bike MS event for many years to come.
“I feel some sense of camaraderie and community being a part of the ride today,” he said. “I feel better than I have in years.”
For more information about Bike MS and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, visit mssociety.donordrive.com.