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Cyclist raising money for Multiple Sclerosis
Bike Ride for MS
Thomas Beasley is bicycling his way across the United States for the 55th time to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis in honor of his former trainer, John Toodle. He'll be in Statesboro today before leaving tomorrow for Augusta. - photo by Luke Martin/staff
When Thomas Beasley lost his trainer, Jon Toodle in 1990 during his efforts to qualify for the Tour de France, he knew he wanted to do something to commemorate him.
    So beginning on January 2, 1991, he began a cross country bicycle trip to raise money for multiple sclerosis research, stopping in towns and cities to ask for money before pedaling on to the next town.
    Now, 16 years later, he's embarking on his 55th, and he says final, trip across the country, having left Florida earlier this year. He'll be in Statesboro today and tomorrow visiting businesses and soliciting donations.
    "I feel like if you're not doing something with your life, it's kind of like you wasted it," he said of his efforts, which have raised at least $105,455 over the course of his travels. That's just the amount that has been donated to him. Early on during his campaign he would suggest people make donations to their local chapter if the couldn't give it to him directly, but when he would call to find out what had been given thanks to his efforts, he couldn't always find out.
    Multiple Sclerosis, often abbreviated MS, is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system that can result in difficulties with coordination and speech, severe fatigue and other symptoms. In severe cases, it can cause impaired mobility and disability.
    He's traveled 195,000 miles and plans to break the 200,000 mile mark at some point during this trip. As of today, he's been riding 16 years, three months and 18 days and gone through three bikes, 58 sets of tires, four of the specialized trailer he uses to carry what he needs. He's also been hit nine times by cars and suffered broken bones and had two head injuries.
    Despite that, he says he's not fearful of riding on the roads alone from town to town.
    "I don't always feel safe, but I do feel in control," he said.
    Beasley has also worked on a book, entitled "The Most Famous Bike Rider Nobody Knows" about his travels. He's finished all but the last chapter, which will be about his final trip.
    After arriving in town, Beasley stops by various businesses asking for donations. On Tuesday, he got donations from French Quarter Cafe, Shantoria's Salon, Savannah Avenue Salon, Merle Norman and Kayce's Pet Parlor. He also had to take his bicycle to The Bike Shop to have some repairs made.
    He said for anyone wanting to make a donation to either stop him if they see him riding around town ("I'll be wearing red, white and blue while I'm here," he said) or to drop off donations at the front desk of the Trellis Garden Inn where he's staying.
    "Just leave it in an envelope with my name on it," he said.
    Beasley said he thought he'd been in every town of any substantial size in the country, but realized he'd missed a few, including Statesboro, and is trying to visit those on his final trip. From here, he'll go to Augusta and then into South Carolina on his way up the East Coast.
    Once he's finished with his fund raising, Beasley said he wants to move to a cycling community and run a bicycle shop as well as taking time to educate children on proper bike safety.
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