Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 9, 2005

Munsons hit the road, to help find a cure for MS

By Lynda Jensen

If Ray and Patty Munson of Howard Lake had an odometer on their bicycles, it would read at least 6,450 miles by now – miles they’ve cycled in the name of medical research for multiple sclerosis.

The couple took up cycling for a good cause about six years ago, when Patty’s brother, Dan Reardon, got Ray interested in the MS Bike Tour, which is a 150-mile, two-day event.

Patty joined the effort a little later, while Ray was looking for a new bike. “About the third bike shop that we went to, she decided to get a bike, too,” Ray said.

Ray’s cousin, Hank Ketcham, has an advanced case of MS, being paralyzed from the neck down. Ketcham grew up in Howard Lake, but lives in Wisconsin now, where he resides at a veteran’s administration hospital.

Since they started, the Munsons have toured 10 states and racked up thousands of miles each.

This mission has brought them as far south as Tennessee and Colorado, as well as to other states including Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

They usually take part in five to six rides per year, 150 to 200 miles each, since the MS tour offers an optional extended course.

This year, they plan to hit five MS Bike Tours.

“We plan to start in Minnesota, then Illinois, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,” Ray said.

At times, they may cycle eight hours a day, with a few sore muscles to show for it.

“Sometimes you think you’re going to die,” Patty laughed wryly, remembering the time they cycled up Devil’s Gulch, which is 9,000 feet above sea level in Colorado.

The experience makes them thankful for their own good health, and they meet dozens of inspirational people on the way.

“When I’m sore, I think of my cousin,” Ray said, referring to Ketcham.

Another time, Patty reported finishing one century (100-mile) tour to do another the very next day – with the result being muscles tightening to “near record levels.”

“But it was worth it to us, because we had just seen so many MS sufferers waiting at the finish line to cheer for us, even though most of them could no longer ride bicycles themselves,” she said.

“We meet so many fascinating people on our rides, both riders and volunteers, many of whom were battling MS themselves,” Patty said.

The MS Society funds more than 300 research grants and fellowships every year.

An estimated 400,000 Americans have MS, with approximately two thirds of those being women.

Another worthy cause that the Munsons cycle for is the American Diabetes Association, which offers the “Tour de Cure,” a one-day, 75-mile ride.

The Munsons have a niece with this disease, Caitlin, who inspired them to take on this cause as well.

In the past, they have both walked and cycled, once as part of “Caitlin’s Crew,” for medical research to cure diabetes.

Diabetes is the sixth deadliest disease in the nation, killing more Americans each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined.

Those interested in sponsoring the Munsons may do so by sending a check, made out to the MS Society, to Ray Munson, PO Box 561, Howard Lake, MN 55349.

The Munsons cover the cost of their rides themselves, so all donations will go directly toward research.

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