Monday, February 18, 2008

Riding for Rehab

Rocky Mountain Stroke Association (RMSA), headquartered in Littleton, Colorado, launched its Riding for Rehab fundraising campaign this past week. Denver Metro resident, Mary Kay Engel, 51, climbs atop her Special Carbon Fiber Ruby Pro bicycle in two weeks to pedal across the United States, raising money for RMSA. In 2006, Mary Kay’s sister, Kathy, suffered a stroke. As is often the case with stroke survivors, Kathy’s immediate care used up available insurance money. Through the efforts of her family and friends, Kathy’s rehabilitation continues. Specifically, through the affordable services and scholarships available through RMSA, Kathy is able to attend weekly therapy classes, gaining improvements physically and emotionally.

A stroke occurs every 45 seconds in the U.S., affecting over 700,000 Americans. Each year 150,000 Americans die from stroke. Thirty-percent of strokes occur in women under the age of 35. The most amazing thing is that many strokes are preventable. Exercising, eating well, monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and staying on top of stress are just a few of the proactive steps we can all take. In some cases, though, as with Mary Kay’s sister, the stroke is a result of a congenital disorder that was never discovered until the stroke occurred.

Mary Kay, who developed a passion for bike riding a few years ago, has traveled many parts of the world on her bike. She decided last year to focus on a cross-country tour. She also decided it was time to use this passion to raise awareness about and funds for stroke survivors and their families. She is traveling with Women Tours, so will not be trekking across this land on a bike all alone. She looks forward to the adventure and companionship of other women bicyclists, while she stays focused on and motivated by raising money for RMSA to deliver direct services, often through scholarships.

“The reason it’s important to me to raise funds for Rocky Mountain Stroke Association is they have been very helpful to my sister in providing physical and speech therapy,” Mary Kay writes in her bike blog. “Insurance covers only a limited number of visits, which does not enable a stroke survivor much opportunity for improvement. Thanks to RMSA, my sister can afford the necessary therapy to enable her to live a more independent lifestyle. Without this organization and the help they offer, my sister would not be able to speak as well as she does, or perform daily tasks that you and I take for granted.”

Mary Kay leaves San Diego, California on March 6 and arrives in St. Augustine, Florida on May 2. To read more about Mary Kay’s journey and to contribute your support of stroke rehabilitation through Rocky Mountain Stroke Association, visit or

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