Feb. 12, 2007

Riding the snow for a cause

This is the 18th year that the Hohags will ride for MS

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

What started as a memorial ride for Dean and Joan Hohag of Waverly, in memory of Joan’s brother Joel Reiner, turned into a yearly tradition.

Reiner was only 23 years old when he suddenly passed away in a deer hunting accident. After the loss of Reiner, the family found brochures on his dresser for the MS (multiple sclerosis) Sno Rally that he intended to ride.

The family remembered sitting at the kitchen table with Reiner as he told them about the upcoming ride.

As the event approached, Dean and Joan decided they would ride in his honor and Joan would ride her brother’s snowmobile.

“It was Dean’s idea to ride the first year, and we raised $11,800 that first year,” Joan said.

“We are avid snowmobilers. We’ve always gone snowmobiling as a couple, even before we were married,” she said.

The Hohags must collect at least $1,400 in pledges just to be eligible to ride in the event, but always aim to collect between $2,000 to $3,000 per year.

Pledges collected go to the Minnesota multiple sclerosis chapter as a memorial to Reiner.

“It’s not an easy ride and that first year it was 60 degrees below zero,” Joan said.

In the past, riders were required to cover 500 miles over the course of the event, now the rules have lightened up a bit and an actual mile count isn’t required. However, most usually ride more than 150 miles per day.

This year the event is being held Feb. 22 - 25 at Fortune Bay Resort and Casino in Tower, Minn., which has numerous trails that go out 360 degrees around the resort in every direction, noted Joan.

“What’s kept us going back is the people. It’s so easy not to do things like this. We would like 50 people from the community to do this with us. We just ride a snowmobile – how easy is that?” Joan said.

“Even if it’s 30 degrees below zero, people shouldn’t be afraid to go on the ride. You can go as fast as you want, as far as you want, and if your energy isn’t up for it, that’s fine. You’re allowed to do whatever you want,” Joan explained.

“Once a year, we send out a letter to businesses, personal friends, and people who we met at the rally who don’t ride anymore and detail the previous year’s ride as well as ask for a donation. It’s so fun going to the mailbox after the event, even for about three months afterwards we’ll continue to receive donations,” Joan explained.

Although the Hohags didn’t start the ride in support of someone who had MS, they have met so many people that have been touched by the condition that they now have connections to those suffering.

“About 80 percent of the riders have a personal connection to MS. There are lots of people who have touched our lives. It’s (MS) not fair. My best friend from high school now has MS – somebody my age in a wheelchair,” Joan said.

In conjunction with the rally, an MS men’s get-away is hosted at the resort. Seminars are available for those suffering with MS and meal time allows for the MS sufferers to mingle with the MS snowmobile riders.

“We all eat as a group. It’s neat because it’s put in front of us the reason we ride, and they thank us,” Joan said.

“There’s still a core group of us that still ride (from the original group 18 years ago). It’s all about the people. Dean has never not wanted to ride. That’s his thing he likes to do off the farm,” Joan explained.

“It’s fun to see our friends once a year. We have our snow rally best friends and our regular best friends,” Joan laughed.

What is multiple sclerosis?

MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves.

Surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers of the CNS is a fatty tissue called myelin, which helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses.

In MS, myelin is lost in multiple areas, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis.

When myelin or the nerve fiber is destroyed or damaged, the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain is disrupted, and this produces the various symptoms of MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The exact cause of MS is unknown. It is not contagious and is not directly inherited.

To make a donation

There are two ways to make a donation.

1) Mail a check made payable to: MS Sno Rally, Dean and Joan Hohag, 4108 Elder Ave. SW, Waverly, MN 55390

2) E-pledge online at www.mssociety.org, by clicking on the ePledge icon on the left-hand menu. Credit cards accepted.

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