Riding to End Multiple Sclerosis
Nan Langen Steketee ‘68
Rare is the day in spring, summer and fall in Philadelphia – the city she calls home – that Nan Langen Steketee ‘68 isn’t on a bicycle, riding for exercise or just because she loves it. Nan and husband Scott have been riding since their college years – Nan at Wellesley and Scott at Harvard. During the intervening years, they have become serious riders and have acquired a large collection of bicycles, including several tandems. How many miles have they’ve ridden? They wish they had kept track of the thousands and thousands they have ridden together.
In 2008, before Nan retired from her career as a community and social justice activist, Nan and Scott started participating in the annual “Bike MS City to Shore” ride which takes place the end of September or early October, 75 miles each way between Cherry Hill and Ocean City, New Jersey. This ride typically raises $4 to 6 million each year with up to 7,000 riders. The Multiple Sclerosis Society sponsors numerous bike rides like this one throughout the U.S., bringing in millions of dollars for services to individuals and families and for MS research toward a cure.
In 2011, Nan transformed her biking passion and participation in the annual event into a personal mission: she formed “Team Joelle,” named for her cousin Joelle, who has battled MS for almost 30 years. Nan recruited several others to do some serious pedaling toward a cure for MS during the City to Shore bike ride. Each year, more than a dozen riders pedal for Team Joelle, and many more friends pledge funds. In 2020 and despite the pandemic, fourteen riders pedaled for Team Joelle and raised $8,500. Overall, Team Joelle has raised over $154,000 for the effort.
Nan loves this ride. Riding 75 miles in one day is difficult, but pedaling mile after mile with all those enthusiastic riders who share a determination to END MS is also tremendously inspiring and can be emotional. Often along the route the riders see an individual in a wheelchair calling out, “Thanks for riding!” The riders know their effort is helpful and important to that individual on a personal level. Despite a few setbacks, like a replaced knee one year, an ankle problem another year, and a broken hip, all of which delayed her annual spring and summer cycling, Nan gets back on her bike and trains for the annual fall event. In 2019, Nan was recovering from a knee replacement and still she rode the eastward leg of the ride; and with pride and delight she did it! “My emotions were over the top,” she said as she rode into Ocean City at the end of that long day.
At sunrise the next morning as return cyclists were preparing to leave, Nan seriously thought she’d like to be among them. The return ride leaves at dawn. Riding across the bridge from the Ocean City Island back to the mainland and seeing the sunrise, the riders are reminded that there is hope for those facing multiple sclerosis.
Nan has already begun fundraising and training for the September 2021 ride. If you want to know more about why Nan rides, please visit her page on the MS City to Shore ride site: https://mssociety.
– Martha Heisel, ’68