By Kate Quesada

Residents from the Valrico area are using their legs to raise funds to fight Multiple Sclerosis (MS) next month as they participate in Bike MS: The Citrus Tour, a 100-plus mile bike ride from The Fantasy of Flight in Polk City To the Omni Champion’s Gate in Orlando and back.

The tour, which takes place Saturday and Sunday, May 6-7, is now in its 30th year and attracts approximately 1,000 participants, raising between $600,000 and $800,000 annually. Most riders bike 100 miles the first day of the event and can then chose whether to do 25, 50 or 75 miles the second day.

FishHawk resident Stephen Barone heads Team Grace, the second largest team in the event, with more than 40 members from around the Brandon/Valrico area. The team’s goal is to raise $50,000 through fundraisers and donations.

“We are a group of friends, neighbors and families from all over the central Florida area,” said Barone. “We are casual recreational bike riders, cycling enthusiasts, non-riding volunteers, triathletes and people with MS who use their bikes to fight and fundraise, in spite of this nefarious disease.”

Each participant in the tour must raise at least $250 with the money going directly to research programs and services for people impacted by MS, a disease of the nervous system that interrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body. Millions of people are affected by MS to varying degrees with unpredictable symptoms ranging from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis.

“We ride the bike tour because we know that 100 plus miles is nowhere near as difficult as confronting a life time with MS,” said Barone. “The National MS Society gives us all a reason to hope, though. In addition to supporting novel research projects around the globe, they also provide much needed education, programs and services to everyone who is affected by MS, including the diagnosed, their friends and families and the healthcare professionals who work with them.”

Valrico resident and realtor with Keller Williams Realty South Shore David Harbough is also participating in the tour as an individual.

“Every year I ride for the eight people I know affected by MS,” said Harbough, who trains for 16 weeks before the event, biking most days on his lunch break. “The event is very well organized and a great way to raise funds for a disease that impacts many people very differently.”

Team Grace is still looking for members and volunteers to add to their group. For more information on the tour or to donate, visit Search Team Grace or David Harbaugh to find their fundraising pages.

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Kate Quesada
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.