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Thursday, July 28, 2011

High Schoolers Bike Coast-to-Coast to Raise Money for Multiple Sclerosis Research

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Cameron Swengel
  • Cameron Swengel

While most high school students are lazing on the beach or waiting tables at the local diner this summer, 17-year-old Cameron Swengel, from York, PA, decided to take on a more challenging project -- biking across the U.S. to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

He joined three other friends, and together, they are finishing their last leg of the 3,000-mile journey. They will be arriving in San Francisco today to celebrate the end of an arduous yet virtuous trip.

Swengel's father and grandfather both suffer from M.S., an autoimmune disease that attacks the myelin sheaths around the axons of the brain and spinal cord, resulting in a symptoms, including numbness, tingling, blindness, and often paralysis. The cause is unknown and there is no cure, only treatments to help manage the effects.

Of course, Swengel has considered the possibility he might get the disease himself. "I have heard through rumor that in some situations M.S. is thought to have genetic tendencies, and to be honest this frightens me," he says. But instead of being consumed with worry, he decided to help.

click to enlarge Left to right: Matt Shenk, Tyler Gettel, Cameron Swengel, and Stehl Taylor.
  • Left to right: Matt Shenk, Tyler Gettel, Cameron Swengel, and Stehl Taylor.

On June 13, the boys dipped their tires in the Atlantic Ocean at Yorktown, VA, and set off, accompanied by Swengel's mother driving a support vehicle. Since then, the road has had its bumps. Swengel hurt a knee early in the trip, but got back on the road after a two-day break. Swengel's father, Scott, also told SF Weekly that the trip has been particularly challenging for 16-year-olds Tyler Gettel and Stehl Taylor, who have less biking experience than Swengel and 18-year-old Matt Shenk. "But they're all doing a great job," he says.

Today, the team will coast into San Francisco, biking across Golden Gate Bridge and dipping their tires in the Pacific Ocean at Fort Point to mark the end of their journey -- which, by the way, has been successful: They have raised close to $17,000.

"I miss him," admits Scott Swengel, who hasn't seen his son in a month. "But I couldn't be prouder, as a father, to know that my son is doing this for me, for his grandpa, and for all the people who suffer from M.S."

The team is still accepting donations on its website, Coast to Coast for MS.

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Caroline Chen

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