Gina Peak usually prefers to be in the background, making things happen.
However, recently she was thrown into the spotlight and recognized for her efforts with Bike the US for MS.

Bike the U.S. for MS (a 501(c)3 non-profit) has sponsored 4,000 mile rides which span across the United States. The groups are comprised of volunteer cyclists from all over the country. They raise funds and awareness of multiple sclerosis, along with community service projects. This year’s group assisted a Girard couple affected by multiple sclerosis with window cleaning and putting a new coat of finish on her deck.

Gina has never ridden her bike across the country, but she has helped people who do.

She learned about the organization in 2009 while doing a Google search. At that time it was their second time coming through Pittsburg but the first time doing a community project for people living with MS.

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease which attacks the central nervous system, which could include numbness of the limbs to paralysis.

Gina also happens to be one of the people who helped found the Hope for MS Foundation which is based locally. The group’s purpose is to help provide grants for people with MS to include scooters, scooter batteries, among other things, insurance may not cover completely.
She also helps with fundraising and volunteers at MS functions.
“This is another opportunity to give back to someone,” she said.

Gina reached out to Bike the US for MS Founder Don Fraser to see if she could provide a meal for the cyclists when they came to town. He said yes, of course.

In many of the towns the cyclists would either camp or stay at a specially made facility for cross-country riders. The cyclists have previously stayed at Pittsburg Community Middle School and Pittsburg High School.  In recent years, they have been staying at Memorial Auditorium in Pittsburg.

Downstairs in the basement of the auditorium is where all of Gina’s home cooked meals are made. She now cooks breakfast and dinner, and has help with sponsors for some of the meals.

Gina learned to cook for just about anyone over the past several years — a decade in fact. She realized not everyone puts bacon in their green beans, and she now knows how to cook gluten free, lactose free and vegan.
“I can’t do this without a lot of people here helping me out,” she said in front of a crowd during a celebratory dinner on June 27, encouraging the audience to give a round of applause for all of the volunteers.

Also at the dinner was Bike the US for MS Route Director Kaylyn Messenger. Part of the reason Kaylyn was there was to visit with the team of cyclists.
But the main reason was Gina.
“Over a decade she’s been putting her all into this, she’s always gone above and beyond,”  Kaylyn said.

They gave her a “special thank you” for a decade of service: The Gina Peak award.

Yes, Gina has an award in her name, however it was her second time she was awarded. The first time was in 2011 when it was named after her. The organization chooses a person from the route from the previous year who was helpful to them.
“I’m blown away to receive it once and I was really surprised to receive it a second time,” Gina said.

For Gina, Bike the US for MS and the Hope for MS Foundation, holds a special place in her heart. Gina was diagnosed with MS in 2004. Her symptoms started with tingling and numbness in her hands and feet. After 10 months of seeking a diagnosis it was confirmed that she had the disease.
“I’ve been one of the very fortunate people who have been affected very minimally,” she said.

Gina went on medication soon after she was diagnosed.

There is no cure for MS and it is “unpredictable in how it is going to affect you in the future,” Gina said, adding there have been advances in medicine and there are now more treatments available.

If people wish to learn more about MS, Gina said she suggests the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, “there’s a great deal of info out there, I highly recommend as resource learning about the disease.”

Gina said she’s never been the “type’ to sit back and not do something when she can, mentioning that cyclists have been “pleasant” to be around.
“I’m always so thankful for everything they do,” she said.

She’s certain that next year, the next Bike the US for MS group will come back with an appetite.