Hempfield resident pedals hundreds of miles for multiple sclerosis group
By Les Harvath
Published: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 7:55 p.m.
Hempfield resident Dennis Ledgerwood has pedaled for hundreds of miles to become a top fundraiser for the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Ledgerwood, 57, was one of 1,250 participants in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's “Escape to the Lake” bike ride from Cranberry to Conneaut Lake this summer.
Owner of Moore Tire Service in Greensburg, Ledgerwood has raised more than $57,000 for the Pittsburgh chapter of the society during the course of 13 years of involvement with the ride program, according to event director Chris Pfeiffer.
“Dennis is not part of a team, but raises the money on his own and the numbers prove he has raised a lot of money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. He is dedicated and committed to the cause and we are more than thankful for his involvement,” said Pfeiffer, in his second year as director of the noncompetitive race.
Ledgerwood and other top fundraisers were honored on Aug. 22 at the society's dinner at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.
“We have our Fab 50, the top 50 fundraisers,” Pfeiffer said, “and to make the Fab 50 is a remarkable feat. ... When riders sign up, they receive a number to pin on their shirts, but those who raise and contribute substantial amounts are awarded a number on our Top 10 list. He (Ledgerwood) broke into the Top 10 four years ago and next year will be his fifth year in the group. This year Dennis wore No. 5.”
More than $312,000 was raised by the Fab 50 this year.
Ledgerwood started small, which “was the minimum of $250 in pledges in my first year,” he said. “This year I raised over $11,000. I ride for the exercise and to raise money for the program. In a ride such as the MS event, everyone rides together. It is not a competition but some riders are definitely competitive about their riding. Raising money to fight MS is the goal of this ride.”
Ledgerwood's involvement began when a friend asked him to ride along on that first event.
“I did it because of the purpose and because I enjoy bicycling,” he said. “I've ridden in the event 13 years because of the benefits that come from raising the money.”
Ledgerwood's contribution has grown from that initial year, thanks to donations from his customers and vendors. His wife, Carol, sends letters and keeps track of donations. They sent 300 letters this year asking for donations.
“We received a 95 percent favorable response from the letters we sent,” Ledgerwood noted. Vendors often provide items to raffle at his business to raise additional funds.
“My customers also thank me for my involvement. Some tell me they are afflicted with MS or know someone who is,” Ledgerwood said.
Starting in Cranberry, riders made their way under, then over Interstate 79, following country roads leading to Allegheny College, 83 miles away, where they spent the night.
“Because of the hills and distance, the first day was the toughest,” Ledgerwood said. “On the second day, Sunday, we rode 64 miles from Allegheny College to Conneaut Lake Park. ... As we ride closer to Ohio, the route is over flatter terrain.”
Since 2004, Ledgerwood, who takes recreational rides of 25 to 40 miles at a time and who will travel 60 to 70 miles in 30-degree January temperatures, has been riding a Trek 2200 bike — “a really good bike,” he said.
“At one time I was putting 4,000 to 5,000 miles on a bike in a year and the night before the MS ride my wife surprised me with the new bike. It only weighs about 15 pounds. I had already lost 30 pounds and my weight loss (combined with) the lighter bike made it seem like I was flying,” Ledgerwood said.
The veteran of the “Escape to the Lake” events in 2005 participated in the Seattle to Portland Ride, a 213-mile, one-way ride taken by several thousand riding enthusiasts.
His wife, who takes him to events, met him at the finish line.
“We left at 6 a.m. and returned to Seattle late that night,” Ledgerwood recalled. “We rode through Mt. Rainier National Park, which was an amazing, beautiful part of the ride. But I have to admit that I slept pretty good that night.”
Ledgerwood said he is honored to be among the Fab 50, but said he could not have done it without the support of his customers and vendors.
“Without them, I would not have been able to contribute so much,” he said. “All I do is ride my bike.”
Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
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