Team rides in honor of Bristol man

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Some 700 cyclists rode 150 miles from Pawtucket to Norton, MA and back this past weekend for Bike MS: Ride the Rhode, the largest fundraiser for the R.I. Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. One local man, Bristol's Paul Castro, is acutely aware of the importance to raise money for a cure to MS, though he has to follow the action from afar.

Castro, 49, was an athlete and a newly-minted college graduate (Bryant class of 1986) when he was diagnosed with MS in December of 1986. "It was a big lifestyle change," Mr. Castro admits. "Up until that point, I did it all, and now I can't. But you have to keep positive; keep smiling; keep the faith and keep in touch. Don't shut yourself off from people." It's that motto—Castro's four "keeps"—that provided the name for team "Castro's Keeps."

When Nancy Freeman, a longtime friend of Mr Castro's, approached him and told him she wanted to do the Bike MS ride in his honor, Castro was deeply honored. "It was something I could never thank her enough for." In 2012, when the ride made its way through Bristol (the route changes every year) it was particularly special for Paul, who calls the experience of rooting on his team "one of the best of my life."

Team Castro’s Keeps is co-captained by Keri Hague Beck and Kevin Duarte, another close friend of Castro's from Bristol High School, from where he and Freeman graduated in 1982, and Duarte in 1983. Duarte was unable to ride this year, but will return in 2014. In team Castro's Keeps' first appearance at Bike MS: Ride the Rhode, its 10 cyclists raised $8,000.

Co-captain Freeman and their six-rider team for 2013 kept in close contact with Mr. Castro during the weekend, checking in after logging 84 miles on day one, and at the 46-mile midpoint on day two. It was tough going in Sunday's heat and humidity, but Ms. Freeman reportedly told Mr. Castro, "I kept thinking of you, and how you struggled through your days." Knowing what Mr. Castro, and so many others like him, endured each day, was more than enough motivation to keep the hundreds of riders pedaling toward the finish, and the some $500,000 the event has raised to date.

Their efforts are not lost on Paul Castro. "The team did fantastic. I am so, so proud," he said. "They make me feel that I am not alone in this."

This year's fundraising totals are not final, as the opportunity to contribute is open for another month, through July 23. To donate, please visit http://bikerir.nationalmssociety.org.

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