Greg Van Tighem, a fire chief in Jasper, Alberta, is on a mission to end Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
In March, Van Tighem will start the 3,000 kilometre Highway 16 End to End to End MS ride, cycling from the highway’s westernmost point in Masset east to Winninpeg, Manitoba.
Van Tighem hopes he can raise $93,000 for the MS Society of Canada, with 100 per cent of the funds he collects before and along the way going to the group that provides services to people with multiple sclerosis and their families, and funds research to find a cure.
This is Van Tighem’s second long distance ride, doing the Highway 93 End to End in 2013 that raised $96,488 for the society.
Van Tighem estimates he alone has raised more than $250,000 to support people living with MS and help find a cure, with his efforts beginning seven years ago as part of a team of firefighters in the Hinton MS Bike Tour. Originally not having a lot of knowledge on the disease, Van Tighem met people affect by MS through the event and wanted to keep helping.
“I’ve got a couple close friends who have MS, so I’m connected through them. I’ve also lost a few friends that had MS who died as a result. I keep getting more engaged as time goes by,” he said.
This time around, Van Tighem wanted to make it more difficult by doing the ride during winter and on a fatbike, a bicycle with over-sized tires that are designed for soft unstable terrain like snow and sand.
“It’s a lot more work to get them rolling and they don’t keep going like a road bike,” he said, adding he chose to ride in the winter to draw more people’s attention. By doing so, he hopes to raise more awareness on the disease.
“I think I’ll get more attention when people see me in winter conditions, especially on a fatbike because it’s such a funny looking bike,” he said.
“My personal target is to raise awareness of the plight of people with MS and to bring it up to a more prominent place.”
As he did with last year’s ride, Van Tighem will share his 2014 experiences over his blog endms93.com.
“On my last trip when I was coming up from Arizona I ran into some issues with my hands locking up, fatigue and pain. There was some similarities with some of the symptoms I was dealing that they deal with everyday … I had a lot of comments [on the blog from people with MS],” he said.