By Donald Wittkowski
Inspired by his wife Pam’s 26-year battle with multiple sclerosis, Jeff Craighead participates in the Bike MS City to Shore Ride every year to help raise money in the fight against an incurable disease that often disrupts the central nervous system.
When the 75-mile Bike MS trek from Cherry Hill to Ocean City unfolds during the weekend of Sept. 21-22, Craighead will have plenty of company.
As many as 6,000 to 7,000 cyclists are expected to ride in this year’s event, which serves as the second-largest fundraiser in the country for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Around $5 million is expected to be raised this year.
Jeff and Pam Craighead, who are volunteers with the Greater Delaware Valley chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, appeared in Ocean City on Thursday night during a City Council meeting to promote Bike MS, now in its 39th year.
The number of people suffering from the disease is staggering, according to statistics cited by the Craigheads. Globally, an estimated 2.3 million people have the disease, including one million in the United States. About 150,000 of them reside in the tri-state area. There is no cure for MS.
Pam Craighead, 65, was diagnosed with MS in 1993. Thanks to the medication she takes, she continues to do well, although she does have weakness in her right leg that worsens with fatigue, the Craigheads said.
Her medication is made possible by research funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Pam said the Bike MS event is a crucial part of efforts to raise money nationwide for other MS sufferers who need help.
“Research is happening and the money that is raised is making a difference,” she told reporters in an interview after the Council meeting.
In remarks to the Council members, the Craigheads stressed that Ocean City is a major reason for the success of the event. The waves of bikers are attracted by the allure of the Jersey Shore, they said.
“The fact that we have Ocean City as a final destination is not insignificant for our success,” Jeff Craighead said. “That is a draw for this ride.”
The Craigheads, who live in Philadelphia, thanked Council for Ocean City’s support of Bike MS over the years. Ocean City police officers are stationed along the entry route into town to protect the cyclists and direct traffic.
Jeff Craighead, 63, inspired by his wife, has been riding in the event for 26 years. The couple’s son, Jack, has participated in Bike MS for 25 years.
Craighead’s fundraising team, the Roxborough Riders, will mark its 26th year in Bike MS this September. Craighead raised $8,000 in 2018 and his son added another $1,000 for MS. In a letter to potential donors, Craighead said he has set a fundraising goal of $7,500 for this year.
Bike MS also helps to raise awareness of MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society and its advocates have been pushing for laws and programs nationwide to support MS research, care and education.
“Last year, MS activists helped pass 22 bills in state legislatures across the country, leading to increased access to quality care, disability rights, long-term care support and services, and more,” Craighead told donors in his letter seeking their support.