Ride raises money to fight Parkinson’s

When Chris Woods, an avid cyclist from Merrimack, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 41, the goal was to find a bicycle ride that raised money for Parkinson’s research.

Three years later, the New England Parkinson’s Ride was organized. This year’s ride will take place next month.

“We need to find a cure,” said his mother, Edna Woods. “It’s a devastating disease. Eight people with Parkinson’s do the ride every year and they really struggle. It’s really sad.”

Edna has been working to carry on that legacy with her son since his diagnosis as director of the New England Parkinson’s Ride. For years, Chris was riding in the 150-mile Diabetes ride and the 150-mile MS ride. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he realized that there were no charity rides in the New England area that raised funds for researching a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Setting out to change this, the New England Parkinson’s Ride linked up with Team Fox at The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

The annual event has grown exponentially in just a few recent years. In 2009, a 10-mile loop was added to facilitate younger families and less experienced cyclists. Over the course of the ride, 105 cyclists raised over $56,000. Last year, they nearly doubled their proceeds, with 205 cyclists raising $105,037 for The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

The ride will take place on Sept. 10. As in the past, this year’s ride begins and ends in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, traveling through the countryside and shoreline.

This year in particular, Edna was met with a unlikely surprise. After addressing a letter to President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, informing them of the event, she received word from one of their aides that the couple would wave to riders passing by along the route, which passes by the Bush vacation house.

“I figured I would write to them since they live right along the route of the ride,” she said. “So that’s really exciting.”

Riders can choose from a 10-, 30-, 50- or 100-mile bike ride that travels through scenic countryside and shoreline, beginning and ending at Old Orchard Beach in Maine. Cyclists of all ages and skill level are welcome and are encouraged to choose the ride distance that best matches their skill set. The organizers of the ride ask that each rider obtain at least $100 in pledges, but they will certainly not be denied from partaking in the ride if they are unable to do so.

Riders can register up to the date of the event and there is a pasta supper, held at Lyndberg’s Landing at the end of The Pier at Old Orchard Beach, being offered on the Friday night before the ride where cyclists can socialize and may pre-register for the morning.

All proceeds are donated directly to The Michael J. Fox Foundation to be used in Parkinson’s research. For more information, visit their website at http://www.neparkinsonsride.com/ or call Edna Woods at 1-603-429-0588.