March 12, 2004
Talk of the Town
When he lost his hero and mentor to Multiple Sclerosis 13 years ago, Thomas Beasley really didn't know what the disease was about.
John Toodle had been largely responsible for developing the Anaheim, Calif. man's interest in bicycling. And he also helped him develop his self-image and view of the world, as well.
Beasley would not take losing his mentor sitting down. He took his sorrow to the streets, making 51 subsequent cross-country trips to raise $82,475, and counting, for MS research.
For a second time, his travels have brought him to Alexandria, where one can spot his trademark Wolverine biker suit and Cannondale bicycle through this weekend.
"It's a disease that can affect anyone at any time," Beasley said. "Over 400,000 people have it. That's one in 1,000. I probably should have quit this a long time ago. I couldn't. This is important."
Beasley will hang up his MS wheels in October. But that's October. His mannerisms are that of a weary warrior at the end of a mission, understanding it is time to end a journey that has cost him time and a marriage, but one that he nevertheless leaves reluctantly.
"You know when it's time," Beasley said. "Places get burned out on donations, because they keep seeing you over and over. I've been to Texas 20 times. There are only so many times you can talk to the same people."
Beasley keeps track of each penny he has received, mainly because knowing the exact dollar amount tends to lend him credibility with potential donors.
Of the total raised so far, the 35-year-old has contributed more than $23,000 to the Iowa chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society alone.
All that work and no play can lead to one pooped fundraiser.
"Sometimes, I'll just shoot pool, watch movies or most of the time, sleep," Beasley said. "It's always a challenge being on the road, but you can't just stop and do something else."
Iowa chapter President Brett Ridge likened Beasley to a Biblical disciple, because he has left behind things of worldly importance and devoted his life to aiding others.
"He's left behind what normal society considers important," Ridge said. "He has decided to focus on the needs of others. He's sent us a good portion of money each year. You're talking about an extremely devoted individual."
Devotion apparently is the word.
Not one to use the money he receives on his trek, Beasley lives day-to-day under conditions that would make others cringe. He often depends on the kindness of sympathetic hotel proprietors for either free or reduce-rate stays. Meals are of the most modest variety.
He stayed at the MacArthur Inn on Thursday because of a special reduced rate, and barely had enough to cover expenses. He will be staying at the Super 8 Motel today, Saturday and Sunday.
From there, he will head to Lafayette, where he plans to purchase a much-needed bicycle seat and air pump. From south Louisiana, he will head for cities such as Jacksonville, Fl. and then his finishing point, Portland, Maine.
It's not all tough biking. There have been memorable perks: Such as the time World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon gave him a third row ticket to a "Raw" event in Chicago, meeting major leaguer Barry Bonds at spring training in Phoenix, and talking to country music maven Leanne Rimes in Little Rock, Ark.
"I've been a lot of places," Beasley said. "Mississippi is like its
own little world, but it's kind of like that in Arkansas, Louisiana and
Texas. Alexandria is a challenge, as far as donations go, because it is
smaller. I welcome the challenge."
Copyright © 2004, The Town Talk