Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing Raises Millions for MS Research
Wendy Roberts and her husband, Ryan, were on their way to the store in Longmont when she was struck by a bout of vertigo and memory loss.
“I got really hot and dizzy and I couldn’t form a sentence,” she said. “I was trying to tell my husband to take a left on Ninth, but I couldn’t find the words.”
Knowing her family has a history of neurological disorders, Roberts immediately knew this was more than just a migraine and went to the doctor’s office to get an MRI. Though her doctors initially told her she was fine, after several more MRIs, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a year later.
“I was in a really sad, dark place and I thought ‘How can I do something positive with this negative energy and fight for my own cause?’” she said. “I had a couple of friends who knew people with MS and they told me to reach out to Chris Lennert at Left Hand Brewing Company .”
Having witnessed the effects of MS first hand, Lennert, Left Hand’s chief operating officer, in 2008 urged Left Hand Brewing to start sponsoring teams for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Bike MS fundraisers.
Consisting of 72 different bike rides through some of the most scenic areas in the country, including the 30-mile Fort Collins Loop on June 29 and 30 this year, Bike MS not only increases awareness of the disease — which affects 2.3 million Americans — but also raises money for medical research.
With a fundraising minimum of $400 for each participant, Bike MS has raised more than $1.3 billion for medical research since it was founded in 1980.
This year, Left Hand supported 600 riders and volunteers in six states that collectively raised $730,427, its largest sum to date. Since 2008, however, Left Hand is responsible for raising more than $3.5 million. It even brewed a special beer called Wheels Gose ’Round, a lemon and raspberry gose, to raise awareness for the event.
“We’re now the third largest corporate team and we also do various events throughout the country to bolster our fundraising efforts,” said Sara Barfoot, the national coordinator of Team Left Hand. “So it’s pretty amazing to see how much of an impact Team Left Hand team is making.”
Thanks to these fundraising efforts the National Multiple Sclerosis Society was able to help develop a new MS drug, known as Ocrevus, which improves cell health in the brain, and Roberts now uses to regulate her disease.
While fundraising is the end goal for Bike MS, the rides also provide people like Roberts with the inspiration to remain physically active and the courage to speak about their struggles.
“It was amazing just to know that I could do it,” Roberts said. “I get restless legs and lose balance a lot as a result of my MS, but I found that even if my legs hurt and are sore while I’m riding, I feel better both mentally and physically afterwards. It’s changed my life.”
Not only has she begun speaking at events, inspiring others to get involved, but during her first ride this past year she also surpassed her two-day goal of 50 miles by 13 miles in the first day. On the second day, Lennert asked if she could ride at the front of the Team Left Hand group so she could cross the finish line at the head of the team.
When she reached the finish line she also was awarded the “Most Inspirational Rider Award” out of 3,000 riders.
“I just cried,” she said. “I actually have the award above the massage chair that I have in my relaxing room, so that when I’m sad or stressed I can look at that and say ‘Yea, I did that.’”
Those interested in joining the Bike MS ride can register online , or contact Left Hand Brewing through teamlefthand.com . Along with the official Bike MS rides, Left Hand also organizes training rides throughout the year that leave from the Left Hand Brewery in Longmont. Afterward, everyone sticks around for a beer and a chat.
“It’s such a positive and supportive group it doesn’t matter how strong of rider you are, we’re always trying to recruit more people,” Roberts said. “It’s more than just Left Hand Brewing. Even just training and getting out was a really big deal for me and thinking about how far I’ve come with their help is indescribable.”
John Spina: 303-473-1389, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jsspina24