The Berks-Mont News (

‘Sanding away' at Multiple Sclerosis at Bertie's Inn

By Gailynne M. Ferguson, For Journal Register News Service

Friday, July 6, 2012

First, the rage was the Iron Man Competition. Then it was Tough Mudder. But on July 14th at 12:30 pm, it will be the 22nd annual Belt Sander Racers. Yes, you read that right: Belt Sander Races, where men and women place their posteriors atop of Black and Decker style shop belt sanders, have their team ready to follow alongside the over 40-foot plywood race track to guide the cords and wait for “Racers. Are you Ready?”
Anne and Peter Thomas, proprietors of Bertie’s Inn, located at 160 Old Friedensburg Road in Exeter Township began hosting this unusual event 22 years ago in an effort to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS). Since their first race, they have raised over $300,000. Not bad for an event that is not only unusual but seldom advertised. They have been successful mainly by word of mouth of loyal patrons and the sport. A $50 entry fee for the event is due by July 10 to Bertie’s Inn and spectators are asked to make a monetary donation of their choice to the NMSS either at the event or at via a NMSS link. T-shirts will be sold and all proceeds raised from food & T-Shirt sales will be donated. Contact Anne or Peter at 610-370-9191 to register for the race.
Multiple Sclerosis is considered an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system of adults; though in recent years, there has been a rise in children being diagnosed. Researchers do not have an exact cause though several theories have been introduced over the years to include genetics and environmental issues.
Surfacing as visual problems, gait/coordination issues, or fatigue, the disease often strikes between 20 and 40 years of age: an adult’s prime years when they are settled in a career, raising a family or both. MS has no cure and does not gender discriminate. Celebrities such as Teri Garr, Montel Williams, Clay Walker and most recently, Jack Osborne are just a few who suffer from the disease. The list is long. The United States alone has between 250,000 -350,000 cases of multiple sclerosis with about 200 more being diagnosed each week. Over the past 25+ years, fundraisers have helped launch many disease modifying drugs to help slow the progression; enabling many to continue a very normal, but modified, life-style.
It is ironic that Bertie’s Inn has chosen belt sander races to raise money. If a competitor’s cord comes unplugged, they can no longer race. In multiple sclerosis, the result is very similar. Nerves are surrounded by myelin which allows signals to be transmitted throughout the body similar to an electric wire that is surrounded by its plastic sheath. When the sheath is exposed, so is the wire which could potentially disrupt the electric being transmitted to the end product. When the immune system attacks itself, the myelin begins to break down in the central nervous system, disrupting signals to the peripheral nervous system. The results can cause problems with vision, gait, fatigue, paralysis and a shortened life span but each person experiences different symptoms. Life does not have to stop with a diagnosis of MS; however, chances are, it will need to be adjusted continuously as the disease progresses. Fundraisers such as this give hope to those with the disease that they may someday find a cure. Until then, KEEP SANDING!