Fairmont native prepares for cross-country bike trip in honor of mother
January 4, 2019
Fairmont State University student Jayce Riley will soon embark on the trip of a lifetime, raising funding and awareness for multiple sclerosis in honor of his mother.
Riley’s mother passed away in 2014, right before he entered his senior year at Fairmont Senior High School. Now, Riley hopes to raise as much money as possible to help others afflicted with the disease.
“My mom had MS for about 13 years, and the things that you saw and had to deal with for those 13 years were really kind of hard to explain,” Riley said. “It took a toll on my family and everything.
“It’s just a way for me to honor her, to go through this. It’s not going to be easy to do this. It’s going to take a lot out of me. My cousin did it three times, actually, and I can’t believe she did it that many times. If she can do it, I can do it, and if I can do it, anyone can do it, really.”
On May 31, Riley will travel to Yorktown, Virginia, to start his 3,785-mile, two-month trek across middle America, passing through states like Missouri, Kansas and Colorado before finishing the journey in California, a part of a program called Bike the U.S. for MS.
“We’re actually going to start with our bike tires in the Atlantic Ocean, and whenever we go across (the country), we’ll end up in San Francisco with our front tires in the Pacific Ocean,” Riley said.
Riley, whose mother had multiple sclerosis during most of his childhood and adolescence, said the disease heavily impacted his family.
“People with MS can’t do things because their bodies just physically won’t let them do it,” Riley said. “It affects the nervous system. Your body is unable to send these messages. In my mom’s case, it affected mobility. She couldn’t use her legs very well, and then she started to not be able to use her arms. For some people, it affects them like that. Other people, it just slows them down. Regardless, it’s MS.”
From the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains, Riley and his group will see a cross-section of America along the way.
“The least amount we’ll travel in a day is 48 miles, and that’s in Colorado, so we’re dealing with mountains,” Riley said. “The most is 105 miles in Kansas. Most days will be around 60 to 80 miles.”
Riley is following in the footsteps of his cousin, Kaylyn Messenger. Riley said that ever since Messenger took her trip, he’s been wanting to take his own.
“I was going to do it at some point after she brought it up,” Riley said. “I knew I was going to do it. It was just a matter of time. Some changes in my school plans have actually allowed me to do it this year. The stories that she tells and the experiences that she had are just unbelievable. I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Messenger also took the trip in honor of Riley’s mother, who was her aunt.
“It was a year after my aunt, Jayce’s mom, passed away, and I wanted to do something to honor her,” Messenger said. “My ride on the northern trail in 2015 totally changed my life. I hadn’t travelled much, and even though my aunt had MS, I actually didn’t know much about it. I just knew I wanted to help.”
Messenger now works as the U.S. route director for Bike the U.S. for MS, saying that her first trip spurred her to become a route leader and travel cross-country four more times.
“We raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis research and raise awareness through cross-country bike rides,” Messenger said. “We’ll donate to different facilities along the way who conduct research or we’ll donate to hospitals that treat MS patients.”
Riley said that, along the way, the group will stop at different locations, participating in activities and community services to raise awareness for their cause.
“The importance of it is just getting the awareness out there,” Riley said. “People are going to drive by and see us biking. Wherever we stop to eat lunch, we can stop by and talk with people. Local news stations in places that we go will do stories on us, and we’ll do community service work. It’s just awesome to be able to raise money for research and to be able to have the experiences.”
Riley is preparing for his trip through exercising, and hopes that one day soon, research can lead to a permanent cure for the debilitating disease.
“It’s amazing how easy we have it,” Riley said. “It’s just such a worthy cause to donate to and help these people, because there’s hasn’t been much done at all. There are steroids that help and stuff, but it’s relatively recent that they’ve started to try and do something… It’s the greatest cause ever, to try to help someone else.”
Riley hopes to raise at least $3,785 — a dollar per mile — for his trip. To donate, visit www.biketheusforms.org/cyclists/detail.asp?cid=1380. Physical donations can be made at Main Street Yoga in downtown Fairmont and both Hermosilla’s Deli Market locations. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.