Make Your Mark: MSA Awareness Tour 2014
Cycling to raise awareness of Multiple System Atrophy
My dad, Mark Versel, loving father, grandfather and brother — and husband to my mom for nearly 46 years — died May 11, 2012, at the age of 68 from multiple system atrophy (MSA). He fought the disease valiantly and courageously to the very end, even celebrating what he knew would be his final birthday with a night of laughter and love, surrounded by his family and friends. His body may have failed, but his spirit endures.
He was selfless, kind and generous in life, always making time for those he loved and for ideas he believed in. It is with this in mind that we are staging Make Your Mark: MSA Awareness Tour 2014. When I was a child, my dad taught me how to ride a bike, just like so many other parents have done for their kids. But he always went the extra mile for his family, so to speak. When I rode my first "century" (100 miles) just three years ago, he was there at the finish waiting for me. Though MSA had robbed him of mobility — he was unable to get out of the car — he was beaming ear to ear, filled with pride like I hadn't seen in years.
In the aftermath of his untimely death, the only thing that could ease my sadness was some time on my bike. It was during a ride in the summer of 2012 that I conceived of this tour in his memory as a way to raise awareness of MSA, a condition that even some physicians are unfamiliar with. In fact, MSA is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease, and that is exactly what happened to my dad. My family didn't really know it was MSA until the final two years of his life. Though he suffered terribly, my hope is that something positive can come out of his ordeal.
Mark Versel, who worked for years as a self-employed management consultant, had an MBA from The American University in Washington, D.C., and a bachelor's degree from San Jose State University in California. He was a native of the Bronx, N.Y., but lived most of his life in the Washington area, which is why this tour is heading there.
— Neil Versel