This year I got to volunteer to work communications for the MS City to Shore Ride.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to be a part of an institution in South Jersey, the annual City to Shore bike ride that benefits the Multiple Sclerosis Society. I can’t say enough about how well organized and enjoyable of an event this is.
This year, bikers (bicycle bikers, not motorcyclists) too part in the 34th annual event. The two day ride starts in the Cherry Hill area and ends at the Jersey Shore in Ocean City on Saturday, then the riders return on Sunday. There are actually multiple options for routes, varying in distance from 25 miles to 100 miles, which allow cyclists of all levels to partake. The goals are simple. For the cyclists, they get to ride through some beautiful back roads and enjoy the camaraderie of being part of the event. For the organization, the goal is a bit broader… To work towards a world free of MS.
The MS Society is a well-known nonprofit organization focused on bringing an end to multiple sclerosis. The organization of the event itself, that is also definitely worth discussing. Every single aspect of the race was well thought out and nothing was left off of the table.
The route had rest stops roughly every ten miles, with drinks and snacks for the riders, but that’s just the beginning of the way the event takes care of these bikers. Throughout the route, there were multiple “support and gear” vans, nine in total. They drive the length of the route in a staggered fashion and can stop and assist any rider who has a blowout or other issue. Multiple mobile bicycle repair shop vans also follow the route for the same reason. If a rider gets injured, they are also taken care of quickly. A private emergency medical services company is hired for the event and their ambulances are no more than five minutes away from any rider at any given time. Again, everything to keep the riders safe and healthy seems to have been thought of.
For the event this year, I worked as a communication specialist. There are base stations at strategic locations (certain rest stops and at the race end) who track of where the riders and various support vehicles are at any point. Ham radio operator volunteers (that’s me!) are stationed along the route at various places to call in when they see the first rider, when a support van passes (and which one it was) or when an ambulance passes. This allows the net control station (think central command) to know where everyone is at any given time. Also, any rider could come up to me and ask for assistance. Yes, every detail is well planned and extremely well managed! And there actually are motorcyclists along the route as well. About a half dozen ham radio operators went mobile for the ride, also following the riders, riding out ten miles, back tracking five, etc., to ensure that everyone was okay. I spoke to one of the guys on the motorcycles and he told me that he’s ridden in pretty much every type of condition on his bike but this was the most unique and enjoyable.
Of everything that was enjoyable for the two-day event, I must say that the most fun was the people I met. Everyone involved in volunteering was extremely friendly, including the nice couple who drove around to the radio volunteers and offered us water and chicken sandwiches! The riders themselves showed nothing but appreciation the whole time. One of my jobs was to let them know that they were approaching railroad tracks followed by an immediate left turn. The turn was hard to see. At least half of the riders thanked me not only for the heads up, but for helping out. And they thanked me while riding their bikes. Showing their appreciation was that important to them. It was a great opportunity for me to be part of this.
So Many Benefits
I got a lot out of being part of the MS City to Shore Ride this year. I learned a lot about ham radio (probably another article to come in the near future). I met some really great people that I will probably be working with in the future. I saw a fun fundraiser that brought together hundreds of riders plus another hundred or more volunteers for a worthy cause. And most importantly, I was able to help raise more than $3.3 million to help those suffering from multiple sclerosis. All in all, it was a weekend well spent.