Portsmouth woman rides for mom, who has MS

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PORTSMOUTH — Meredith Rainey had participated in fund-raisers for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society over the years, but her commitment was renewed last January when her mother, who’s had MS for more than 30 years, came down with pneumonia.

“We almost lost her,” Ms. Rainey said of her mom, Barbara Rainey, who can’t speak or move and gets nourishment from a feeding tube.

In honor of her mom she created "Team Babs," recruiting a dozen cyclists. In Team Babs’ first year participating in Bike MS: Ride the Rhode, it raised $13,000.

The high point for Ms. Rainey, a lawyer, was when the team cycled over to her mother’s home. Even though it's difficult for Barbara to get around, she was sitting outside waiting for them in her wheelchair.

“She was thrilled,” recalled Ms. Rainey, who described her 67-year-old mother as mentally sharp. “I’ve had so many generous friends and colleagues over the years who know the situation and how hard it has been and they have been so generous at times it is overwhelming.”

Ms. Rainey, 37, lives in Portsmouth, down the street from her mother, who is cared for by Ms. Rainey’s 92-year-old grandmother, Fina Frank. The care Barbara needs is extensive, and the family has worked hard to keep Barbara in her home.

“My mom was about my age when she was diagnosed with MS,” Ms. Rainey said. “I am the oldest so she had three small kids when it happened.”

Ms. Rainey is expecting to have eight cyclists on Team Babs and they’ve started training and fund-raising for a bike event that means so much to her family.

“The consensus is everyone is amazed about how well-organized it is,” she said of Bike MS: Ride the Rhode. “Nothing is left undone. It’s fun. It’s not competitive.”

Bike MS: Ride the Rhode, the largest fund-raiser for the Rhode Island chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, will take about 1,000 cyclists on a 150-mile route from Pawtucket to Norton, Mass. and back on June 22-23. Last year, they cyclists raised a record-setting $840,000.

Visit www.bikemsrhodeisland.org for details or to register.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.