Making a difference one spoke at a time

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John Fedak finished his 28th annual Colorado Bike MS Ride last weekend.

The two-day trek from Westminster to Fort Collins was just a joy ride for the 70-year-old Thornton man compared to the month-long, 2,200-mile bike ride he took from Denver to the Atlantic Ocean he completed just a few weeks ago.

“We met so many good people in middle America,” Fedak said of the cross-country ride he took with cycling partners Chuck Freeman, of Northglenn, and Paul Schmeisse, of Thornton.

Although Fedak has been a dedicated participant for almost 30 years in bike rides to raise awareness for multiple sclerosis, he said his involvement started as a fluke.

The retired home-construction superintendent was an avid runner until his knees started to give him trouble. So he took up cycling and joined the first cycling event he could find, which happened to be a Colorado-Wyoming Chapter MS event 28 years ago.

“I kept meeting people with multiple sclerosis, and it was phenomenal how upbeat they were for having a disease that was so debilitating,” Fedak said. “I was inspired. I found something that I was able to do that could help others.”

According to the National MS Society, multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system by disrupting the flow of information from the brain to the body. Neither a known cause or cure has been discovered.

Through the years, Fedak has raised between $1,000 to $2,000 annually during his rides. This year, however, he set a goal to reach $4,000, and it looks like he just may make it. He said he has turned in $3,300 to the National MS Society.

“Colorado has one of the highest prevalence of MS in the nation, and symptoms

most often appear ages 24 to 35; 73 percent of people diagnosed are women,” said Jeanine Spellman, who does public communications work for the society. “Although the cause and cure remain unknown, MS has gone from an untreatable disease just 20 years ago to having 10, FDA-approved treatments, thanks in part to research supported by every mile ridden by Bike MS participants.”

Fedak and his riding crew raised $2,000 on their trip to the Atlantic Ocean in Brick, N.J. The donations came mostly from people who gave them money while seeing them in their towns.

“We spent eight or nine hours in the saddle, about 85 miles a day,” he said.

He has several stories of the praises he and his teammates got as they explained where they were going and why. One of his fondest memories, he said, was when he met a woman at a restaurant in Ohio who has MS. She called the men her heroes and her husband bought their dinners as a way to say thanks.