Fairfield businessman takes battle to the streets

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Larry Greenhall of Fairfield and Kerry Collins of Monroe cut the ribbon at the start of 25-mile ride at the 2012 Bike MS: Red Thread Ride+Steelcase Ride in Westport.

With two decades of dedication and thousands of miles on the road, Larry Greenhall of Fairfield bikes to battle multiple sclerosis.

An enthusiastic cyclist, Greenhall, through his participation in the annual Bike MS, has turned his passion for riding into thousands of dollars in support of the National MS Society. Little did he know, however, that his efforts would reach the $1,000,000 mark.

Soon after marrying his high-school sweetheart, Robin, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Refusing to let the diagnosis get the best of them, the couple pressed on, focusing on doing their part to find a cure.

“Multiple sclerosis is not something that we allow to direct our lives,” said Greenhall, observing that his wife never let her diagnosis darken her outlook. “Robin is a strong woman. With the help of new medicines that the MS society has helped develop she continues to live a very fulfilling life.”

More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Robin, are affected by multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. The cause is unknown and there is currently no cure for MS. Symptoms can include numbness in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness, loss of mobility and, in some more severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.

In 1990, Greenhall noticed an opportunity to unite his passion for cycling with his commitment to help fund MS research.

“At the time, I was working for Louis Dreyfus Commodities and a coworker, who also had MS, invited me to join his Bike MS fundraising team,” said Greenhall, who quickly got up to speed, taking on the role of team captain after only a few years of riding. “When I joined, there were only four cyclists, and when I left there were around 25 employees on the team. Today, their roster has around 50 names.”

In 2006, Greenhall accepted a position as director of agricultural risk management at Bunge, a global agribusiness and food company. Employed at a satellite office in Fairfield, he recruited co-workers to saddle up with him for Bike MS. Today, with the support of his team and almost 25 years of experience, Greenhall’s fund-raising is breaking away from the pack.

Individually, Greenhall can be credited with raising $358,602 since he first saddled up for Bike MS. While at Louis Dreyfus, he led the team in raising $686,000. During his seven years of captaining The Crushers, Greenhall has raised $260,000 for the MS cause. This year, Greenhall hopes to raise enough money to make his combined efforts reach $1,000,000.

“I am lucky in that, after all my years of cycling, I continue to have the support of a broad group of people,” said Greenhall, who last year was named top individual fund-raiser, raising more than $48,000 for Bike MS. “The event gives us a chance to come together to have some fun while supporting a great cause.”

Last year, Bike MS attracted 950 cyclists and raised more than $500,000 for the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter. This year, the chapter hopes to raise $539,000.

“There’s just something about Bike MS that keeps me coming back year after year,” Greenhall said. “I get to participate in a sport I love while at the same time, help people living with a challenging disease.”

The 32nd annual Bike MS: Red Thread+Steelcase Ride, presented by Louis Dreyfus Commodities, will be held in Windsor on Sunday, June 2, and in Westport on Sunday, June 9. Greenhall plans on completing the 50-mile route in Westport, bringing his total mileage close to 1,000.

Finish line festivities will include a barbecue lunch, live entertainment, local vendors offering product samples and free massage therapy.

“I really want people to know how important fundraising events are to people like me,” Robin said. “Seeing the support of my husband and community keeps me going. I am truly appreciative of all they do to support me and the cause.”

Money raised by the National MS Society, Connecticut chapter, through events such as Bike MS, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure. The money also helps to provide vital programs and services offered by the chapter to those in the state living with multiple sclerosis.

For more information on Bike MS: Red Thread+Steelcase Ride, visit bikeMSct.org. To learn more about or to donate to The Crushers, visit ctfightsMS.org.

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