More MS news articles for November 2000

Bicycle Wheels Are This Family's Circle

Placentia man, his dad and a team ride 100 miles on tandem bike to raise money to fight MS, which afflicts the father.

Thursday, November 9, 2000

Todd von Sprechen didn't just ride for someone in this year's MS 150 Bay to Bay Bike tour, he rode with someone. His father, Lloyd, who has multiple sclerosis, occupied the back seat of Todd's tandem bike.

As a result, Lloyd's Lagers, a team of 61 riders clad in yellow, black and purple jerseys, churned down the coast from Newport's Back Bay to San Diego's Mission Bay on Oct. 7 and 8, and set a team fund-raising record of $73,000 along the way. Todd set an individual record of $20,150.

Money raised will go toward research to cure the often-disabling disease.

"It was the experience of a lifetime," said Todd, who said the two flew down hills, hitting 40 mph and passing cars. Going uphill, Todd admitted, was difficult. But he credits his 63-year-old father, who "puts his head down and just pedals" with inspiring him and others.

"The people met my father at practice rides. They'd see him sweating and they just went out and raised money," said Todd, 38, of Placentia. An avid bicyclist, Todd had ridden in the two-day, 100-mile bike tour before his father was diagnosed, raising about $1,000. After his father's diagnosis, the event took on new meaning.

"Everybody who wrote a check to the MS Society made me feel like they were writing it specially for him," Todd said.

The disease, which attacks the nervous system, strikes people from 16 to 60. Symptoms vary from numbness in the limbs to paralysis or loss of vision. Medication can ease some symptoms and slow the advance of the disease, but there is no cure.

Todd, who manages real estate and construction for LA Fitness, received a $10,000 contribution from the company. Sepulveda Commercial Development in Orange made a donation and served as the team's pit crew.

Team members held bake sales and raffles, donating products such as exercise equipment, sunglasses and fishing poles, and services such as haircuts.

The size of the team kept growing, Todd said. His brothers, Blake and Bradley, joined, along with riders from as far away as Mexico City.

"I went from a little team to a team of 61 riders this year," said Georgette Sleeth, team captain. What she found most impressive was the challenges team members overcame. One was recovering from a kidney transplant and several others hadn't been on bikes in 10 to 15 years.

Then there was Lloyd.

"We'd be complaining about not being able to make it and we'd see Lloyd out there. He'd tell me that he was going to finish if he had to drag himself across the line.

"And he had a smile on his face every time I saw him. What an inspiration he is," Sleeth said.

Lloyd's participation was an idea hatched over a couple of beers--hence the name--at last year's bike-tour party at an overnight stop. Lloyd came to Carlsbad to cheer on his son's team.

"A lot of people on the team were riding in memory of or for someone with MS," Lloyd said. "Rather than stand on the sidelines and watch other people pedal for me, I thought I'd pedal, too."

Todd purchased a tandem bike and the two began a training program of twice-a-week rides along the Santa Ana River Bikeway.

Exercise is recommended for MS patients, because people who are more physically fit can better cope with MS symptoms, said Stephanie Fisher, vice president of the Orange County chapter of the MS Society.

Todd and Lloyd said they believe bike riding is slowing the progress of Lloyd's disease.

The event raised $620,000 for the Orange and San Diego county chapters, and because Todd and Lloyd each hit the $10,000 fund-raising mark, the MS Society is sending them to Florida in April for a ride from Miami to Key Largo.

The two are taking 40-mile practice rides now and planning next year's Bay to Bay Ride, where they hope to have a team of 100 riders and raise $100,000.