Young Harris College alums ride to fight multiple sclerosis

Tuesday, February 6, 2024
General College

Young Harris College alums ride to fight multiple sclerosis

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Each year, a group of Young Harris College graduates take to their bicycles to battle the disease, multiple sclerosis, participating in the annual Peach Ride for the Cure for the Georgia Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Held in LaGrange each year in September, the ride raises money to support research to slow progression, lessen relapses and other options to repair damage and reverse disability. MS, as it is referred to, is a condition caused by a dysregulated immune system. This leads to inflammatory damage to the myelin insulation of nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. 

Symptoms and severity vary from individual to individual, but may include visual loss, incoordination, walking issues and problems with cognition.

“The YHC group, which consists of graduates from the 1970s to the early ‘80s, first came together thanks to Charles Ginn, and David Lee, both Class of 1978,” said John Beverstein, a former YHC staffer and member of the group. “Bonne Moye Manning, also Class of 1978, is battling MS and is our inspiration for this group.”

Ginn, along with his wife, Kathy, ’78, invited a few YHC classmates to their home for a weekend retreat and broached the idea of forming a bike team in honor of Manning. 

“The majority of the group had not ridden a bicycle since their youth and several did not even have a bike, but they wholeheartedly agreed to sign up for this fun and worthy endeavor,” he said. “Truthfully, some volunteered and some were coerced, but they agreed it needed to become a priority.”

Team Bonnie was officially formed that year, with 11 riders - eight of which were YHC graduates.

“Bonnie already had established a strong reputation with the Georgia MS Society for her story and courage of dealing with the effects of living with MS since her diagnosis in 1992,” Ginn said. “She was a regular speaker at events where she shared her story to try to increase monetary and emotional support to eradicate the disease.”

Team Bonnie has grown since its inception in 2019. The team has increased from eleven riders to more than 40 in 2023. In 2019, they were recognized with the Rookie Team of the Year Award by the Georgia MS Society. And each of the past three years, the team has won the award for having the most riders, and for the past two they were recognized for raising the greatest amount of money.

“The majority of the riders and cheerleaders on the team remain predominantly proud YHC alumni,” Beverstein said. “The name of the team was changed to Bonnie’s Team & Friends last year so the team could include and support other YHC alumni suffering from MS, including my wife Marianne, ’79, and Jean Wheeler ‘80.”

Bonnie’s Team & Friends has raised over $150,000 since 2019 to support the National MS Society that provides research, develops treatments and helps over one million Americans living with MS, including 13,000 people in Georgia.

“Without the efforts of these YHC classmates and by extension, the people they have reached out to and their participation in Bike MS, fewer people with MS would have services and opportunities for healthier living,” Manning said. “The research into root causes is what is driving us towards a cure. The resources for everyday living, i.e., getting a wheelchair, attending a self-help group, finding doctors, disease-modifying drugs and caregiver assistance would be non-existent. All of these and more are supported through dollars raised by Bike MS participants and my wonderful YHC classmates!”

John McMicken, Development Manager for Bike MS in Georgia, summed up the impact of contributions from teams like the YHC group, “It is inspiring to watch Bonnie & Friends come together every year in support of such a great cause. At the 2023 Peach Ride alone, their team grew to more than 40 cyclists and raised over $56,000 to help find a cure for MS. Their passion and dedication as a team embodies the spirit of Bike MS, not to mention those who volunteered at the event. From my perspective, Bonnie’s Team & Friends owes much of their success to their bond as friends and Young Harris College alumni, as well as their charitable hearts. We love to see Young Harris represented every year by such incredible people.”

Beverstein encourages any and all to join the battle against MS, especially current Mountain Lions and alumni. Anyone interested in joining Bonnie’s Team & Friends for the 2024 Peach Ride, can contact Dana Ensley, ’97, in the Alumni Engagement & Outreach at YHC, at 706-379-5336 or ddensley@yhc.edu.

About Young Harris College

Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires, and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has four academic divisions: Fine Arts; Humanities; Mathematics, Science, and Technology; and Professional Studies. Approximately 1,400 students are enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the Conference Carolinas. For more information, visit yhc.edu.