They Ride Because the Can: They Help without Knowing How Special They Are
Posted Jul 12 2009 1:02pm
Just over a month or so ago, on the campus of Edinboro University , some 1,700 bicyclists participated in this year’s Escape to Lake, a daunting bicycle ride throughout the Lake Erie region, all to raise funds for M.S. research and patient services. Several of my co-workers and my niece rode in the event that is just one of the many Bike MS events across the country each year . I was proud that my university, my employer, was hosting a leg of the journey. Many of those with M.S. who couldn’t make the long journey, volunteered along the way or assisted in the pre-event planning. Somehow my emailed notes of thanks and donations to help the cause, just didn’t seem enough of a thank-you for all that these great people did – and do – every year to help people like me who have Multiple Sclerosis.
I wondered how many of the 1,700 knew someone who suffers from the non-curable, life-altering disease. I thought some might just be big-hearted and generous cyclists who wanted to participate in what they felt was a good cause.
Then, today, I read an article about a fella named Brian Hahl, who has been participating in the Lehigh Valley Bike MS event for two decades. When he first started biking in the event, he didn’t know a single person with the disease. Of course, over the path of 20 years, Hahl met many such individuals, as he became a tireless fundraiser for the cause. Unfortunately, Hahl died unexpectedly from a heart attack as he prepared for this year’s ride. In his honor and in the honor of those 1,700 individuals who rode through my region, I share his story today as well as a public moment of gratitude.
He didn’t have Multiple Sclerosis, but he believed in the cause. When Brian Hahl first rode his bike for MS fundraising, he didn’t know anyone with MS. But, now as he was embarking on his 20th bike ride fundraiser, the New Jersey teacher died suddenly of a heart attack.
Hahl, 50, died July 9 of a heart attack as he was preparing for a long bike ride.
His friend, Jim Durham, a 58-year-old man with MS who was encouraged last year to ride 50 miles alongside Hahl last year, said, “He completely inspired me. He urged me to keep going. He pushed me to ride when I said that I couldn’t do it, He knew that I could do it, and I’m so grateful to him for that.”
Hahl was ready to ride in the MS Milestones for his 20th consecutive race. He helped inspire those with MS who didn’t think they could always do it.
“He was just a good man with a good heart, and his students absolutely loved him, just loved him,” said Linda Ruzanski, who has Multiple Sclerosis.
Durham, who is also a teaching colleague and friend who planned to ride alongside Hahl, said Hahl’s teammates will now be riding in his honor They will be riding 150 miles this time.
Hahl was planning to lead the Lehigh Valley-based team in the National MS Society’s annual PA Dutch 2009, which is expected to raise $325,000 to battle the chronic disease.
Ruzanski recalled that Hahl looked forward to the event every year, and worked hard to raise money and awareness to fight the disease.She knew him for 24 years.
When Hahl first started riding in the National MS Society’s PA Dutch event, he did not know anyone with multiple sclerosis, nor had he even ridden a bicycle seriously before.
Now, he is being remembered and honored for helping out in a cause that he really had no stake in, but he developed friendships with people who have the disease who will carry out his memory.
Author: Mike Szymanski
Mike Szymanski is a National Examiner. You can see Mike’s articles on Mike’s Home Page .
Posted in Activism Tagged: M.S., Multiple sclerosis