Cooperative employee fights MS with long-distance bike ride

Jennifer Virnig

Wright-Hennepin employees Jennifer Virnig and Dale Walcheski pose during a previous MS 150 bike race.


Jennifer Virnig will go pretty far to fight multiple sclerosis (MS) – 150 miles, to be exact.

This will be her third year taking on the C.H. Robinson MS 150 bike ride, which runs from Duluth, MN, to the Twin Cities June 12-14.

The event is part of the Bike MS fundraising series, and is designed for people seeking a personal challenge and a world free of MS.

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

“A lot of people are touched by MS in some way,” says Virnig, customer service representative for Rockford, MN-based Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association.

She aims to raise a minimum of $1,000 – which she also raised last year – through this year’s ride. Other cyclists have pedaled in as much as $10,000 for the cause.

The first day of the event, cyclists ride 75 miles to Hinckley, MN, and stay the night. After getting some rest in a tent or hotel, participants ride on toward the finish.

After the first day of traveling the scenic Willard Munger State Trail last year, Virnig recalls seeing more than 3,000 registered bikes scattered across the Hinkley landscape.

“It’s just amazing how many bikes there are,” she says.

Bikes

Thousands of bikes spread across the Hinckley, MN, landscape.

Virnig didn’t know much about the MS 150 until a friend, Dale Walcheski, a Wright-Hennepin lineman, brought her into the loop. She wasn’t even an avid cyclist a few years back, but organizers of the MS 150 welcome all levels of expertise.

“If anyone falls behind, you just wait for them at the next stop,” she says.

The event has been a great personal challenge for Virnig, as well as an opportunity for her to help those who suffer from MS. From day one, the ride reminded her of the cooperative way.

“There’s a culture of teamwork and family when you’re out on the trails. Everyone’s just for you and rooting you on,” she says. “Working here at the co-op, I’m also part of a great big family.”

Virnig, who has been at Wright-Hennepin for 17 years, says her colleagues have been supportive of her involvement in the MS 150, helping her raise money for the cause.

The MS 150 is a physically demanding challenge, one Virnig wants to tackle as many years as she can. She even has her eye on another Twin Cities ride in May.

“These cycling events are amazing,” she says. “As long as I’m able to train, I’ll for sure keep entering them.”

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