For Doug Hershey, a great cause and a new hobby go hand-in-hand.
His first attempt at the Keystone Country Ride last year fostered a new-found love for cycling and furthered his desire to help people with multiple sclerosis.
"When I heard it was 150 miles, I said that would really be a challenge and I wonder if I could do that," said Hershey, executive vice president for New Pig, whose team raised more than $62,000 for the ride last year. "I just thought MS is a good cause, and I knew the money stayed locally."
The Keystone Country Ride will travel on backroads from Hollidaysburg Area Junior High?School to State College and will return to Hollidaysburg on a different route the next day.
The two-day, 150-mile Keystone Country Ride starts on July 23 at the Hollidaysburg Area Junior High School. Bikers travel on backroads through the countryside to State College, and take a different route back to Hollidaysburg on July 24.
Last year, the ride raised more than $500,000, said Sharon O'Keiff, Keystone Branch manager for the National MS Society, and about 530 riders participated. This year, they expect more than 600 riders, she added.
Money raised by the Keystone Country Ride helps about 7,500 people diagnosed with MS living in Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties. O'Keiff said they provide about 80 different services.
Keystone Country Ride to benefit MS
When: The two-day bike tour will begin at 7 a.m. July 23. Registration begins at 6 a.m.
Where: Hollidaysburg Area Jr. High School, 1000 Hewitt Street, Hollidaysburg
Details: For more information or to sign up for the ride, email Sharon O'Keiff at Sharon.Okeiff@nmss.org or call the National MS Society Keystone Branch office at 696-1017. All riders must be at least 12 years of age as of the start date of the event, and riders under 18 must have a signed waiver from a parent or legal gaurdian. The minimum pledge to participate in the ride is $250. If you do not have your $250 raised by the day of the race, you will be asked to fill out a Promise to Pay Form, which will provide a one month grace period. There is registration fee of $35. You can also register the day of the event. Overnight accomodations on Saturday are being provided at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel for a discounted rate. There will also be a dinner buffet with guest speaker Wendy Booker at the Penn Stater Conference Presidential Hall. The cost is $15. The Days Inn Downtown State College will also offer discounted rates for bikers, and a shuttle service will be provided both days from the Penn Stater to downtown State College and the Days Inn.
Volunteers are also welcomed and appreciated, and can contact the Keystone Branch office.
"Our goal is to help someone with MS have a better quality of life," she added.
Along the route, services such as support vehicles for weary bikers and rest stops with donated refreshments are provided by 150 volunteers. Hershey said he was amazed last year by all of the work that went on behind the scenes, and all of the people who donated their time to the cause made the ride more enjoyable.
"I never realized how good a peanut butter sandwich could taste," he added.
Hershey said he has not been directly affected by knowing anyone with MS, but he rides to help "the masses."
"Just knowing how debilitating that disease was, I decided to take an active role," he said.
But for veteran Keystone Country rider Steve Seltzer, his 14 years of participation have exposed him to the disease's many sufferers.
"When I started I didn't know anyone who had it," he said. "Now, everyone I talk to says they have a sister or a cousin or a friend [who is affected]. It's just amazing how many people MS impacts locally, nationally and internationally."
Seltzer, owner of Steve Seltzer Honda in Altoona, has already raised $13,000 for the ride this year, and more than $150,000 in his lifetime. He was also the top individual fundraiser for the ride for eight consecutive years until he was dethroned last year.
"I was thrilled," Seltzer said. "It takes the pressure off. My thought process always was I hope there will be a day people when be working harder than I do for MS."
Though the local businessman has a busy schedule, Seltzer said taking the time to train for the ride is important. But people in good health shouldn't have much trouble because of the rest stops, he added, and it is important to remember the Keystone Country Ride is not a race.
"I always say there's more to life than increasing the speed," he said.
Because of this, Seltzer said he takes the time to enjoy the scenery and talk to people during the ride. He said it is also a good place to meet new people and experience a sense of camaraderie.
But the thing Seltzer enjoys most, he said, is the opportunity to give back to the local community.
"I think it's important to give back to the people who can't do it themselves," he said. "So I do it because I can, and I'm thankful I can."
Staff writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.