Bike Ride To The Shore To Fight Als A Group Will Pedal 70 Miles To Wildwood To Raise Money For Researching The Disease.

Posted: June 18, 2000

CHERRY HILL — After years of riding in charity bike races, Dan Frank knew what to do when his mother, Eileen, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, last year:

He founded his own race.

Working with some friends and his six older siblings, Frank, 36, put together the first ALS Express bike ride to the Jersey Shore. With only 14 riders, the event raised $15,000 for ALS research.

On Saturday, Frank and his supporters are hoping to triple that, as they hold the second ALS Express, covering 70 miles from Blackwood to Wildwood.

"The idea is, over time, to actually grow this so that it's bigger and better every year," said Tom Riddle, 32, a friend of Frank's who helped him develop the ride. "Start out small and work our way up."

Around the nation, about 30,000 people have ALS, and about 5,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the ALS Association, which helps patients cope with the crippling disease. Though there is no known cause for the illness, it results in progressive deterioration and death of the nerve cells that control muscle movement.

Though the association raises money for all sorts of programs, from vans to drive patients around, to devices to help them communicate better despite muscle paralysis, all the money the bike ride will generate is going to research, said Nancy Venner, development director at the ALS Association of Greater Philadelphia.

"We're very fortunate to have the support we do, where people call us to arrange events," Venner said. "They want to help, they want to be able to take an active role in advancing the cause."

Next weekend's ride is sponsored by Morey's Piers, an entertainment complex in Wildwood, in memory of Jacqueline E. Morey, who died July 13, 1998, after suffering from ALS for a year and a half. Morey was the wife of Morey's Piers founder Wilbert C. Morey and the mother of the piers' current owners, Jack and Will Morey.

Riders will get a barbecue lunch and an afternoon of water rides at the piers after the ride, Riddle said. The race also serves as the kickoff to ALS Days at Morey's Piers - the park will donate its profits for the rest of June to the ALS Association.

For the race, there is a maximum of 200 riders, and registration will be accepted any time this week except the day of the race.

"We had always talked about doing more stuff for the community and giving back, rather than just throwing money at different causes," Frank said.

But besides the money the ride will raise, it has also made Frank's mother very proud.

"He surprised me with it," said Eileen Frank. "He told me what he was going to do and asked me if I minded, so I said, no, it was wonderful."

Her voice quavers as a result of the disease, but she said she was "hanging in there" after 18 months with ALS.

"I have seven children, and they all support me so well," she said. "It's very nice, it makes me feel real good."

Mike Madden's e-mail address is mmadden@phillynews.com

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