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Lifestyle

Riding to raise awareness of MS

Multiple Sclerosis

Bicycling isn't usually fodder for Jeremy Conn, co-host of the popular Scott Garceau sports show on 105.7 The Fan.

But the Bike MS: Chesapeake Challenge had a particular meaning for the Baltimore County native. His wife, recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, participated in it.

"You don't realize how many people are affected by it until you start talking about it," says Conn, whose job is to discuss the Ravens, Orioles and big sports stories of the day. "I get texts, emails and Facebook messages from others dealing with this too. … I'm always surprised by the power of radio."

He and his wife, Katie, raised more than $7,000 for the event, which was held the weekend of May 31 and June 1 at the Talbot Community Center on the Eastern Shore.

Katie Conn says she was happy to raise awareness about the autoimmune disease that causes damage to the central nervous system.

"Nothing but good can come from this," she says.

The 28-year-old labor and delivery nurse at Johns Hopkins hospital first experienced double vision in 2010, which was diagnosed as viral meningitis. The symptoms went away but returned in January 2013. After testing, including an MRI scan, a neurologist confirmed the MS diagnosis last November. She takes daily injections of medication to prevent future flairs.

"Every day I wish I could trade places with her but all I can do is be there to support her and help with the injections," Jeremy Conn wrote in a March blog entry entitled, "More important than sports."

Jeremy Conn, who grew up in eastern Baltimore County and Harford County and has two young sons from a previous relationship, has been helping promote local MS fundraisers.

During research about the disease, Katie Conn saw a video clip online about the bike challenge.

"It was inspiring," she says. "You could tell it was all skill levels. … You can do it at your own pace."

Katie Conn's teammates on the ride included her 15-year-old sister, Grace Edwards, along with a group of co-workers and friends, including two from out of state.

The first day, they finished 34 miles. The second day, they logged another 30.

"It was a flat course," Katie Conn says. "And it was beautiful."

As part of the course, cyclists took the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, and biked through scenic towns including St. Michaels and Oxford.

The bike challenge is intended to promote and raise funds for the research efforts of the National MS Society, says Samantha Flottemesch, development manager for the Maryland Chapter.

The organization has raised $400,000 from the cycling event and has a goal of increasing that to $500,000 by Aug. 1.

The Maryland Chapter of the National MS Society also sponsors a Challenge Walk on the Eastern Shore in September, and Walk MS events in April.

Conn says she was happy to meet others who have been diagnosed with MS.

"It was really inspiring to hear people's stories," she says. "I hope this ride will be the first of many."

For more information, visit BikeMSMaryland.org.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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