Three-sport high school athlete Isaac Bales probably won’t ditch any of his favorite sports for the bicycle he hopped on to raise money for multiple sclerosis, but he admits he is enjoying his time on his borrowed Trek road bike.
"It (bicycling) is something I’ll probably stick with," said Bales, a senior-to-be at Monticello High School.
"It’s something you can do for a million years. You can’t play football forever. I’ll probably bike when I get older too," added Bales who also plays on the MHS basketball and baseball squads.
But bicycling is more than just an activity for the 17-year old; it’s a way to help his father Thad, who was preliminarily diagnosed with MS about a year ago. Isaac has been training for about a month for the National MS Society "Tour de Farms," which runs this weekend in DeKalb. Bales will bike with his uncle Michael Yockey. Their team, "Mike and Ike’s Flyers" has already raised $2,820.
Isaac hopes to raise at least $3,000 – and stay in the saddle at least 50 miles. It’s something that makes his father beam.
"At first I was a little nervous about how far he can ride," said Thad Bales. "But he’s a high school athlete, and with just a little training, he can ride 20 miles without batting an eye. Not bad for just hopping on the bike."
His longest training ride thus far of around 30 miles was somewhat accidental.
"I got a little off track," said Isaac of a trek that was supposed to circle Allerton Park. "I went past Cisco and started toward Weldon. I was going to get off on the next country road, but there wasn’t one for like five miles!"
Diagnosed in 2011
Isaac’s father said he knew there was something wrong when in the spring of last year, "I noticed I was thinking a little too much about walking." He has been told he likely has primary, progressive multiple sclerosis, and at just 45 years of age uses a cane to walk and can no longer mow the lawn.
But his family, which also includes wife Mary and daughters Annie (15 years old) and Olivia (11) say his sense of humor is intact.
"He jokes a lot about his cane," said Isaac.
"He says it gives him swag," added Annie with a chuckle.
The auto-immune disease attacks the sheath around the nerves, and in Bales’ case has resulted in spinal cord damage, which is why walking is difficult. But he counts his blessings: Bales is still able to work as a mechanical engineer at the University of Illinois, and feels he is keeping the disease at bay for now.
"It’s not going to get better, but I could stay where I’m at for a while. But I can get up and go to work, and do some things for the family. There are worse things you can have," he said.
So Isaac will hit his borrowed Trek bike this Saturday, and hopes to stay on the route for what bicyclists call ‘half a century’ – or 50 miles.
For more information on the ride or to donate to Isaac’s cause, log onto www.nationalmssociety.org and follow the "Bike MS" links.