On a sunny weekend in late June, riders in the annual Bike MS fundraiser rolled into the Colorado State University campus, united in their goal of gathering donations to help beat multiple sclerosis.
Among the colorful and unique team jerseys, dozens sported the distinctive yellow jerseys of Team Sugar Bee. This very special family and friends team was inspired by CSU alumna Kelly Walker (’88, ’91, ’02).
Walker was diagnosed with MS in 1988, the same year she graduated from CSU with a bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science. She went on to earn two master’s degrees from CSU in health and exercise science and human development and family studies. Walker was also a staff member in the Department of Health and Exercise Science, where she served as the coordinator of clinical experience and the director of the sports medicine concentration for eight years before her retirement due to MS.
According to Tim Walker, Jr., Kelly’s oldest brother, Team Sugar Bee started in 1993 with a half-dozen riders consisting of friends and family. Tim helped launch the team, serves as captain and participates in the rides. The team is named in honor of Kelly’s childhood nickname, “Sugarbee,” which she was dubbed when she was 5 years old by her older brother Eric. Through the years, the team continued to grow to its peak of more than 140 riders.
This year, more than 80 riders participated on the team, and they hope to collectively raise $100,000. The event is a family affair with Kelly’s parents Betty (Queen Bee) Walker and Tim (Pops) Walker, Sr., as well as Tim and Eric, their spouses and kids, and extended family of Betty and Tim, including siblings, nieces and nephews, some coming from out of state, and all either riding or volunteering. Kelly calls each rider personally to thank them for their dedication. She is also stationed at the Saturday finish on the CSU campus in the Bee Tent to welcome riders. The hive took home the Best Tent Decorations award for a family and friends team this year.
The Colorado Bike MS is sponsored by the Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The ride has a goal of raising $4 million each year to help improve the quality of life for people affected by MS and raise funds for research. It takes more than 600 volunteers to support the event.
Team Sugar Bee is best known for hosting the Saturday lunch stop on the two-day ride, which takes riders on a scenic 150-mile course from Westminster to Fort Collins and then back the following day. 2016 is the last year that Kelly’s parents will volunteer in that role after hosting for nearly 20 years. Betty and Tim wrangle about 45 volunteers to help set up the lunch, and decided it’s time for a well-deserved rest.
“It has been our pleasure to work with our Team Sugar Bee family, friends and volunteers serving all of the fabulous riders from all of the teams these past 20 years,”said Betty Walker. “We have done our best to help take the sting out of multiple sclerosis! The NMSS has been like our second family and we will continue in the fight to end MS, but in a less active capacity. We are BUZZZZZZZING OFF to our hive, with a proud feeling of accomplishment, but with a little sadness that our time is over. We are passing the swarm of responsibility on to the next team or group. May they have as much fun and satisfaction as we did.”
Although Walker’s family is retiring from hosting the lunch stop, Team Sugar Bee will carry on. It is already one of the most prolific fundraising teams in Colorado. In 2010, they were the first friends and family team to reach the $1 million milestone, and they are well on their way to reaching $2 million.
Several of Walker’s friends and former colleagues from the Department of Health and Exercise Science ride with Team Sugar Bee to help fight MS. This year, Dean Jeff McCubbin from CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences participated as well, also giving a welcome on behalf of CSU at the Saturday afternoon program. Although relatively new to Health and Exercise Science, Barry Braun, department head, has gotten to know Kelly well. “The avid participation in the Bike MS ride as part of Team Sugar Bee reflects the strong and deep connections between HES, the college and the entire Walker family,” he said. “Raising money to support the work being done to fight MS, some of it here at CSU, is clearly important and the biggest motivator is that we all just love and admire Kelly.”
For 10 years, CSU has hosted Bike MS on campus, where riders finish Saturday’s leg and celebrate with food, drink and live music on the lawn west of the Lory Student Center. This year, CSU President Tony Frank will be presented with the Hope Award, the most prestigious honor given by the Colorado-Wyoming chapter of the MS Society. The award will be presented at the annual Multiple Sclerosis Society Dinner of Champions in September. CSU is receiving the award for its longstanding support of the MS Society, from Bike MS to volunteer support and research being conducted by CSU faculty such Thorsten Rudroff in the Department of Health and Exercise Science.
The Walker family also supports a scholarship in Health and Exercise Science for a student in the health promotion concentration. The Kelly Walker Health Promotion Scholarship was established in 2002 in honor of Kelly with gifts from family, friends and colleagues. In 2003, Walker received the College of Health and Human Sciences Honor Alumna Award from the CSU Alumni Association. In 2014, Walker was named one of the Bike MS Champions.
Although the annual June ride for Colorado has ended, you can still donate to support Team Sugar Bee in the fight against MS. You can also join the hive as a rider or volunteer for the 2016 Wyoming Bike MS Aug. 13-14 or the Colorado Bike MS 2017 event. Anyone can join! Get more info at the Team Sugar Bee website.