A young York couple will join forces to push their bodies to physical limits and raise awareness for multiple sclerosis.
Central York High School graduates Cameron Swengel and Kayla Jacoby, both 19, will bicycle down the Atlantic Coast with the hope of raising $30,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The ride: The couple and six other cyclists will leave from Bar Harbor, Maine, on Monday to cycle 2,636 miles to Key West, Fla. Along the way, they will promote MS awareness on one-day rest stops in Philadelphia, Nags Head, N.C., and Daytona Beach, Fla. The group plans to spend 35 days on the road, including 30 riding days.
A support vehicle will always be nearby to carry equipment and ensure the riders' safety. They will spend their nights in campgrounds, host homes, hostels and hotels.
Since the group will be logging 80- to 90-mile days, it will break up the effort through the course of the day, Swengel said. To train, the riders try to bike 30 miles every other day throughout the week, with more miles on the weekend, he said.
Coast to Coast: Swengel, of Manchester Township, is a sophomore at Philadelphia University. The architecture major organized Coast to Coast for MS, which sent bikers across the country to raise MS awareness, two summers ago as part of his high school graduation project.
In its second year, the event has raised about $21,000 so far, Swengel said. The first event raised $22,000 total. He said he thinks the team can reach its goal of $30,000 this year.
"We think that it's very attainable," he said.
Last time, the riders who participated were high-schoolers. Now they are in college and a little more focused toward the cause, he said. Aside from Swengel and another rider, this is a fresh group.
"With a couple more years of maturity, I think that the group seems to work together really well," he said. "Last time there was a lot of miscommunication, and this time it's going to be a lot easier to motivate and get everyone on same page."
The first event visited areas that weren't very populated, Swengel said. He's hoping that the Atlantic Coast's bigger cities will provide the opportunity to speak to even more people about MS.
MS: MS is a progressive disease that attacks the central nervous system.
When Swengel's grandfather was diagnosed with it in the 1980s, effective treatments were still in development. He died before Swengel was born.
And eight years ago, his father, Scott Swengel, was in his late 30s when he was also diagnosed with the disease. He generally has numbness in his extremities as a result. For instance, if he picks up a glass, he won't actually feel it, making it easier for him to drop objects.
Fortunately, treatments are now available, and his father can control his symptoms.
"I'm really thankful for that," he said. "I always tell him, 'You're one of the lucky ones.'"
But Swengel still has the possibility of his own diagnosis in the back of his mind. MS isn't a hereditary disease in a strict sense, but a person's risk increases when an immediate family member is affected.
"It makes me nervous because MS has generational tendencies, and I don't want to become a victim," he said. "At the same time, I plan to live an active lifestyle. I'm not going to let it stop me in the future if I was diagnosed."
Partners: This is Jacoby's first big cycling trip, and Swengel says he's 100 percent confident in his high school sweetheart.
"Kayla is doing a lot better than the boys are," he said. "She's going to be perfectly fine."
She said she saw him through the entire 2011 journey.
"When he was leaving is when it kind of hit me that he was doing this," she said. "I should have went with him."
And now she has the chance.
Jacoby, of Manchester Township, is a sophomore at Kutztown University. The elementary and special education major is the only female cyclist riding with Coast to Coast for MS this year.
She's been training since last summer, going on long rides, including a 76-mile ride without a major break.
"As far as being prepared, the first week of riding is really going to put us in shape," she said. "I feel that I can do it."
The rest of the riders are Swengel's friends: six from school and one from Texas who participated in the first event.
Throughout the ride, the group will update its website with progress reports. The students plan to ride through York on May 30 for a huge spaghetti dinner.
To contribute to the cause, visit http://coast2coastforms.webs.com.
-- Reach Mollie Durkin at email@example.com.