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EU cycling team raises money for MS research

It was the first time Dean Chia had ever attempted a 150-mile bike ride, but the sophomore did not let his inexperience slow him down, even if sitting on his bike for more than 12 hours over the two-day event resulted in some “saddle sores.”

“I acutally kind of enjoyed the pain,” Chia said, who hopes to one day compete in an Iron Man competition. “I’m interested in those types of things that push me to bring myself to my limits.”

Chia was one member of a three-man cycling team from Eastern that competed in the MS-150 on Sept. 27-28 from Cherry Hill, NJ, to Ocean City. The ride is just one of the National MS Society’s sponsored fundraisers held across the country each year to raise money for continued Multiple Sclerosis research.

Other team members included Eastern ’08 graduate Andrew Bradstreet and team captain and biochemistry professor Dr. Jeff Lawton.

“About ten years ago my wife and I had been interested in (the MS-150), but I never actually did it,” Lawton said.

This past summer Lawton decided to put a team together for the fall event, even though time was limited. He often rode with Chia and Bradstreet and thought both would be interested.

“I had actually done it two years prior,” Bradstreet said. “I heard about it from one of my father’s friends whose wife has MS, and thought it would be fun to try.”

Each rider had a minimum goal to raise $250 for the National MS society, but as a team they ended up contributing $900 from the ride. Their fundraising consisted of sending out letters and emails to friends and family, explaining what they were doing and how it would help those with MS.

“Most people were willing to give,” Bradstreet said. “I would say most people had heard of (MS) but don’t really know what it is – I didn’t.”

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease that occurs in the central nervous system and can result in a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from limb numbness to permanent paralysis and blindness.

“Basically, a person’s immune system turns against them, attacking the myelin that protects the nervous system,” Lawton said. “No one quite knows what causes it, but they believe it has to do with something in the environment.”

Another large component of contracting the disease is genetics, but no two cases of MS are the same, making it difficult to classify its cause. No actual cure for MS has been found, but extensive research for clinical treatments that can drastically improve the quality of patients’ lives are underway.

Lawton said he was very impressed with the National MS Society and the work they have done for local MS patients. In addition, he said that the ride was well-organized, with a repair team that was there to help within minutes and well-stocked rest stops about every 10 miles for the more than 7,000 participants.

“I felt like I actually gained weight,” Lawton said with a laugh.

Lawton is already working on plans for next year’s MS-150, which will be held Oct. 3-4. He is hoping to enter a larger team that, with much more time for fundraising, can contribute a few thousand dollars to the National MS Society.

“It was a great experience, and the comraderie was fun,” Lawton said. “By the grace of God we had the strength to do it and enjoy it. “

More information about Multiple Sclerosis and the MS-150, in addition to other fundraisers, can be found at www.nationalmssociety.org. Anyone interested in joining the team should contact Lawton at jlawton@eastern.edu.

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