ELLINWOOD — With sirens whistling and bikers and runners, Ellinwood greeted natives Joshwa McMullen and Ben Reser as they completed their bike ride from Pueblo, Colo. to Ellinwood on Wednesday morning just in time for the After Harvest Festival.
All in an effort to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the two rode approximately 350 miles in the searing heat and wind of Kansas and eastern Colorado since Saturday. The two have raised nearly $6,000 so far.
“We set out with a goal that we though was unattainable,” said Joshwa McMullen. The goal was to raise $5,000, which has already been exceeded.
“People came to us when we most needed them,” said McMullen. “We love coming back (to Ellinwood). People are so awesome.”
Reser was momentarily moved to tears by the reception. Members of the Ellinwood boys high school cross country team, who were the 2A state champions, raced alongside McMullen and Reser from the outskirts of Ellinwood, along with police cars, fire truck, and dozens of bicycle riders.
Also, McMullen’s father joined the them in Larned and rode in with them.
“It has turned into a great thing,” said Reser. “We raised an awesome amount of money. But, the greatest thing about this was the people.
“We kept running into people who helped us out,” said Reser.
Each morning, the two left at sunup and rode 50-60 miles before lunch. But after lunch, the heat and wind took a toll, and the two only made 20-30 miles. They camped all but one night.
“We had a lot of fun,” McMullen said. “It was worth every mile. People came to us when we most needed them.”
The NMSS has a special meaning for McMullen. Five years ago, he found out he has MS.
“The first year was very challenging,” said McMullen. “The last four years, I’ve been doing really, really well.”
Multiple sclerosis is a disease where the myelin sheath around the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged, leaving scarring in the brain and spinal cord. The cause remains unknown and there is no known cure.
That year was a dark year of McMullen and members of his family. “The first six months, I had a hard time speaking and walking,” said McMullen. “I’ve been lucky. I got better.”
Symptoms vary, but McMullen was affected primarily on one side. New treatments have become available for MS, and McMullen gives himself shots every other day.
“This is a disease without a cure that presents daily challenges both physical and mental. Josh has refused to allow the uncertainty of this disease to dictate his life, and considers himself to be pretty lucky to be able to enjoy most physical activities,” wrote Josh on their website page. To make a donation, find Joshwa McMullen on Facebook.