Coogs for a Cause

Published on February 18, 2011

Alumni Preparing for Fourth Bike Ride to Austin to Raise Money for MS

Kevin Dacey (’94) has biked from Houston to Austin three times to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He is planning to do so again April 16-17.

When Kevin Dacey (’94) decided to bike 150 miles to Austin to raise money for multiple sclerosis (MS), he had never met anyone with the disease. He just liked cycling with two of his old buddies from the University of Houston — Lee Mabry (’95) and Chuck Grenfell —and saw the BP MS 150 as a personal goal.

But soon after enlisting for the two-day ride in 2008, the biking buddies discovered that Mabry’s neighbor, Lea Ann Hardaway, suffered from MS. Hardaway was at the finish line, but died the next year from cancer at age 40. “She’s the one face of MS that I have,” says Dacey, who is preparing for his fourth Houston-to-Austin ride April 16-17. “When she passed away in 2009, we dedicated our 2010 ride to her.”

Dacey — who studied management at University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business and is now a senior systems administrator at Grocers Supply Co. — learned the value of community service at UH. His fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu, raised money for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. But his friendship with Hardaway opened his heart.

“After that, instead of being a personal challenge, it has become a personal mission,” says the 39-year-old, who bikes with the ExxonMobil cycling team. “I know I can make it from here to Austin, but it’s a matter of getting the word out to more people about what this disease is like, what it does, the sheer number of people who affected by it.”

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system affects approximately 400,000 Americans.

Last year, 12,000 cyclists raised more than $16 million in the BP MS 150, sponsored by the Lone Star Chapter of the National MS Society. Since the first ride in 1985, the event has brought in more than $131 million for MS.

A Louisiana native, Dacey moved to Texas at 4 and grew up in Corpus Christi. While at UH, he marched in the drum line of the Spirit of Houston band for three years and worked as a valet parking attendant.

“My job was to run after cars,” he says. “After I left college, I just continued running.” He has run three Houston Marathons and got into biking so he could compete in triathlons. (Grenfell attended UH from 1990-1994, as an architecture major, and Mabry earned a degree in finance in 1995.)

Kevin Dacey (’94, right) is shown with his friend and fellow biker Lee Mabry ('95) and Mabry’s friend Lea Ann Hardaway, shortly after the 2008 ride to Austin. Hardaway, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, passed away in 2009. Dacey and his friends dedicated their 2010 ride to Hardaway.

To train for the overnight trek to Austin, Dacey will bike anywhere from 60 to 130 miles per week. This year, his dad will join the cadre of Coogs, and his mom will be at the finish line in front of the state Capitol. Dacey hopes to raise $1,000. After the ride, he and his friends will celebrate with margaritas and Tex-Mex at Chuy’s.

One of his best memories of the BP MS 150 has been the cheering  along the way. “When you get into a little town out in Hill Country that has maybe has 2,000 people, and 500 or 600 of them are lined up on both sides of the street cheering you on, it’s really touching,” he says.

Especially when some of the spectators are people with MS, holding signs that say: “Thank you for riding for me.”

To pledge for Kevin and his group, click here.

By Wendell Brock