Most of Waterloo probably knows Gary Hemmer as the president and CEO of First National Bank of Waterloo.
But for the past 15 years, Hemmer has also been a yearly participant in the MS 150, a bike ride that benefits multiple sclerosis.Gary Hemmer rides during the MS 150 event in 2008. R-T (submitted photo)
If Hemmer reaches his personal goal this year, he will have raised a total of $50,000 to help fight the disease over the past 15 years.
“I’ve done other rides, but this is one I’ve really come to focus on over the years,” Hemmer said.
In the past 14 years, he’s raised $46,000 and hopes to break that $50,000 mark this year.
This year’s ride will take place Sept. 6-7 in Columbia, Mo., with about 3,000 participants.
Cyclists have different length routes they can take, but Hemmer said they encourage riders to do 75 miles each day to make up the 150.
Hemmer said he got into cycling through his oldest son, who encouraged him to do a ride across Missouri with the Boy Scouts 18 years ago.
“How many 16-year-old kids would ask to spend a weekend with their dad?” he said. “I agreed to do it and got absolutely hooked on biking.”
From there, Hemmer and his son did seven years of week-long rides, climbed mountains in Colorado and participated in the RAGBRAI in Iowa.
“You see things from a totally different perspective on a bike,” he said.
Several people from church heard Hemmer had done a series of rides and asked if he wanted to be a part of their MS 150 group.
“My first year was 2000 and I really enjoyed it and went from there,” he said. “It’s a fun weekend.”
Over the years, Hemmer has met many people through the MS 150 and says the ride has become a sort of “reunion” because many of the riders do the ride every year.
“It’s amazing seeing all the people who are out there for the same reason you are and that they have come together for this,” he said.
Hemmer has been involved with MS for a long time and said he has become truly passionate about the cause.
“I personally don’t have anybody in my family who’s affected by MS, but I know of many, many people who are,” he said.
The most gratifying part of the experience is seeing all the people who have been diagnosed with MS come out to support all the riders, Hemmer said.
“Hearing them thanking you for riding makes you realize what you’ve done,” he said. “This makes a difference in people’s lives.”
To support Hemmer and his goal, visit www.gatewaymsbikeride.org, click on “donate” and type in “Gary Hemmer.”