Riding for a reason on the Black Woods Blizzard Tour

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On Wednesday, snowmobile riders will descend on Black Bear Casino as the Black Woods Blizzard Tour begins.

The annual multi-day snowmobile ride supports Never Surrender, a group working to further research and treatment for ALS.

“We recently talked to Dr. Merit, who heads up the HEALEY Platform Trials out at Boston Mass. And it’s not slowing down. That disease is going to grow within the next 10 years. It’s going to increase by 70 percent,” Monica Hendrickson with Never Surrender said. “That number is staggering, and it’s mostly because populations are aging longer. People are living longer. So we’re going to see more and more diagnosis of ALS.”

2023 is the 24th year of the ride, and it’s expanded. Hendrickson says the new headquarters at Black Bear gives them more space. This year, there are three routes riders can take. There’s even a wait list to get on the tour.

Thanks in part to the fundraising done through Blizzard Tour, Essentia can enroll patients in the HEALEY Trial.

“What makes it unique is they’re studying multiple drugs at one time,” Dr. Amber Erickson, a neurologist at Essentia, said. “So the idea is as you’re studying drugs faster, you’re going to get results faster.”

She said participating in research also opens doors for more funding and support. Essentia is already an ALS Association-recognized treatment center, but the introduction of research means they could become a “certified” treatment center.

“If we can be a part of a clinical trial that might find a really good treatment for ALS or find a cure for ALS, would be amazing,” Dr. Erickson said.

For a disease with few treatments and no cure, every discovery makes a difference.

“We only had one medication to slow down the progression of ALS forever. And now, we have three. The third one was just FDA-approved in September of this year. So that’s huge,” Dr. Erickson said. “And the reason that we’ve gotten FDA approval is because there’s been so much more research recently. I mean, that’s how we’re going to find treatment. So it’s very hopeful.”

This year, Blizzard Tour riders aim to raise $1.75 million. As of Tuesday afternoon, they’ve raised $1.46 million.

“The biggest reason that we are a site for Healey is because of fundraising,” Erickson said, “and fundraising through Never Surrender.”

While the ride will wrap up Saturday, the reason continues until there’s a cure.

“Blizzard Tour definitely is focused around family. And when you’re part of the group, you’re part of our family,” Hendrickson said. “We’re here to try to do what we can because we’ll never surrender to ALS.”

Donations or silent auction bids are accepted online.