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PROCEEDS FROM BIKE TOUR WILL GO TO FUND MS RESEARCH

"Utah's Best Dam MS 150 Bike Tour" is not trying to slip in a coy cussword. The reference to "dam" has everything to do with several water dams passed along the route and a hearty wish to halt the progress of a disease affecting some 300,000 Americans (with nearly 200 new cases of multiple sclerosis diagnosed every week). The 150-mile bike tour will take place Saturday and Sunday, June 29 and 30, in the scenic beauty of Cache County.Whoa! That's a month away. Aren't we jumping the gun? Actually, the success of the event is heavily dependent on the tireless volunteers who man rest stops every 10 to 15 miles on the bike route and those who drive "sag wagons" or the vans that will pick up a weary rider who's "too pooped to pedal." Volunteers also help with an Italian dinner Saturday night and pancake breakfast Sunday morning.

- Those who would like to volunteer or to ride in the 150-mile event or the new 80-mile route added this year may call 575-8500 or 1-800-527-8116.

In its 10th year, the 150-mile bike tour is a fully catered, two-day event that has attracted 500 riders. Each rider agrees to raise a minimum of $150 in pledges for the bike tour and riders have actually averaged $300 in past years.

Biff Boggs will be cycling through his third 150-mile bike tour. The trim and fit medical technician works at St. Mark's Hospital. Boggs, married and with a son turning 5, has lived with MS for six years. "It's kind of devastating when you first find out," he said, "but the MS support system is growing and getting even better."

Boggs says that the MS Society advocates rest, eating wisely and exercise. "At first when I would feel the tingles, I'd think, `I'm going to beat this, I've got to keep moving.' But I've learned to listen to my body. When it gets hard to walk, I sit down. The big thing is to learn to listen to your body," he said.

During 1995, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society raised $14.2 million for research and medical programs. This resulted in three new drugs: Betaseron, Avonex and Copolymer 1. Researchers are working on treatments for patients with chronic progressive MS. Since 1946, the MS Society has invested more than $189 million to discover the cause, treatment and possible cure for MS.

Multiple sclerosis is a mystifying disease. It affects the central nervous system and can cause paralysis or a mere blurring of vision. The National MS Society says it is rarely fatal. Some breakdown in the body's immune system causes damage to myelin, a fatty substance that protects nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system). Scleroses are hardened patches of scar tissue that may form over damaged myelin, hence multiple sclerosis.

The disease usually strikes young people ages 20-40, and hits women at double the rate of men. It frequently is found in people in colder climates and for some reason, Utah has one of the highest incidences of the disease in the United States.

The executive director of the Utah Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MeriLyn Barrutia says that in the 50 years of the MS organization, more progress has been made in the last 5 years than in the previous 45. The money raised from the bike tour will go to fund MS research. "Literally every dollar pushes us just that much closer to a cure," she said.

Boggs will be camping out at the Cache County fairgrounds June 29 with a team he is calling the "Killer B's." He said he's riding for himself, his sister and his friends at St. Mark's who also have MS. And he'll bike those 150 miles for a sweet young mother of four just diagnosed.

"I'll be riding for Kimberly, too," he said.