Millions of people participate in bike-a-thons each year but one Florida local dedicates his soul to biking for a cause he once knew nothing about. Something inspired him at his very first ride, and it keeps him on his bike riding 150 miles or more every year - all of his efforts help raise funds for those in need with Multiple Sclerosis.
This weekend, Paul Gallock, 59, is set to participate in the 2019 Citrus tour event in Orlando on May 4th and 5th. He will ride both days - riding 100 miles the first day and 50 the 2nd, so he and his team of 8, can cross the finish line together.
Paul hasn't missed a single event in the last 14 years. If he ever can't make an event, he still hosts fundraisers and says he will make the 150-mile ride in his own free time.
Paul was inspired to keep up the yearly tradition after his very first ride back in 2005; a friend called him up one day, asking if he wanted to ride the MS-150 with him. All he knew was his friend believed in the cause and wanted him there, and he loved to ride his bike - that was enough for him to be all in.
But it was what Paul experienced as he crossed the finish line on his first ever ride in Virginia he says inspired him to keep on biking for MS.
"It was a beautiful sunshiney day, Virginia is hilly and I was used to riding in Florida where it's flat. I just laid in the grass there at the finish and said to myself almost in an exhale, 'MAN my legs hurt.'", Paul recalled on the phone in an interview with Narcity this morning.
"Just at that point in time a man walked past my head, he said '"Now you know how it feels to have MS."' At the time, I knew nothing about MS, I was just there for the fun of the ride."
"More and more people started whistling and howling. I was curious and couldn't see through the crowd so thought maybe it was a beer truck or something. I headed over and saw an old man pulling a yellow trailer behind his bike,"
Paul goes on to say that what he saw next is what first powered his passion for the ride all those years ago.
"Everyone was patting him on the back, he gets off his bike, walks around to the trailer and carries out his 17-year-old son who had MS and puts him in his wheelchair."
It was at that point that Paul knew he would never miss another race.
As fate would have it, Paul's said his fire for the cause intensified when he met his wife, Deanna Faris Gallock, at the gym - who has been diagnosed with MS since she was 27.
"I met this wonderful, beautiful woman. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. We struck up a conversation and I found out she had MS. We started to do the M.S. walk event together and got to know each other over the years."
The couple got married on 11-12-13. Deanna picked the date so they could both easily remember. They have remained a happy couple for nearly 6 years now - and Paul doesn't see that or his bike rides changing anytime soon.
He says "can't" just isn't in her vocabulary, and although she is now paralyzed on her right side, she didn't let that stop her. She can mostly walk on her own with a limp but sometimes needs extra support to get around.
"When she couldn't brush her hair easily anymore, she started using her left hand. I hold her hand everywhere we walk, and no one would even know she has M.S. unless she tells them. She just continues to smile and live normally."
Paul said he and his wife go everywhere and do everything together -including hikes, even if that means he has to strap her to himself to support her the whole way through.
"Everyone always says when they see us '"oh you're so in love,'" but it's also because she might fall over if I let go..." Paul joked, and then continued on, "We don't have a cure yet, so I will continue to ride until a cure is found or until I can't physically get on the bike anymore."
Paul's wife Deanna, 48, is an active member in the M.S. fundraising community, managing Paul's biking team as member #8 - she even gives her number out to others who are living with MS that need support or someone who understands. It's been 22 years since she was diagnosed and she says it's a day she'll never forget.
"You start thinking about all the things you wanted for your life," Deanna says, "...how you want to have kids and all the normal things - all of that changes as soon as you find out. I had a doctor tell me, it's not a death sentence - it's an unknown obstacle. You can either choose to tackle it or let it control your life. I don't want to be treated differently, so I don't act differently. I just want to enjoy my life."
Deanna and others with MS will have it for life; Multiple Sclerosis is a non-curable, life-long, disease that attack's the central nervous system, slowly causing paralysis over time. It makes simple tasks we do every day like brushing your teeth or walking on your own no easy feat. MS affects nearly 2.3 million people across the globe; approximately 1 million of those people being in the U.S. alone, according to The National MS Society.
Treatment for this life-altering disease is insanely expensive too. Paul and Deanna disclosed to Narcity that Deanna's medication costs roughly $7,500 a month - that's approximately $90,000 a year just for her medication.
The National MS Society regularly hosts events to raise funds to help those living with Multiple Sclerosis. Funds go towards advancing research to find a cure for the disease, as well as providing financial assistance to those in need that suffer from Multiple Sclerosis every day - such as medication costs or hospital bills.
Paul and Deanna's Team only has 8 and has worked hard to raise money for the cause. Paul has raised a total of $9026 dollars, as of the publication of this article, out of their $10,000 goal, and his team has raised about $15,000 total.
"We may be small, but we are powerful, and I hope anyone living with M.S. or anyone who feels like they can't do it can take can't out of their vocabulary too. If you're passionate and don't quit, you will succeed," Deanna said.
Deanna will be given a ride by ride Defenders, so she can cheer on her team at the finish line.
If you want to cheer on Paul and others riding for a cure, the event will start at the Omni Orlando Resort in Champion's Gate, located at 1500 Masters Blvd, Championsgate, FL 33896 on Saturday, May 4th and Sunday, May 5th. Paul will ride 100 miles on Saturday, and 50 miles on Sunday. The ride will start at 7 am for riders, but Paul encourages people to come out and cheer on all of the riders as they cross the finish line back at the Champion's Gate Omni as well.
If you have more questions about MS, check out The National MS Society's FAQs here. To support Paul's ride and his team Sue's Cruise in their fundraising efforts, donations can be submitted through Paul's story and donation page until June 1st here.