Meg/Kent Grosse and Marie/Jamie Burks

The Clay Walker Foundation
June 13, 2023

“Your wife has MS.” Those words hit like a sledgehammer. Meg was at the hospital with her family. Her dad had been admitted for numerous issues, and the prognosis was not good. I took the call from Meg’s doctor and heard the words that we had dreaded hearing but deep down both knew were coming. As a firefighter and paramedic I knew just enough to be dangerous, and I had a feeling that Meg’s numbness, extremity issues and growing fatigue all pointed at MS. It was almost closing time for our small business. As I was helping the last of our customers, it was all I could do to hold it together. I went to the hospital, got the update on my father-in-law, and then took Meg for a walk. How do you tell your wife she has MS? Believe me, there is no easy way. After some hugs and lots of tears, we quickly made the decision to keep this news to ourselves for the time being. We did not want the rest of the family to direct any attention away from Meg’s mom and dad. Over the next few weeks, we balanced the neurology appointments, steroid treatments, running our business, my schedule at the fire department, and my father-in-law’s failing health. Meg’s dad lost his battle, and as things began to settle down we shared the news with the rest of the family. Support from our families made a big difference for us, but there was plenty of work to be done.

Being a typical guy, it took me several months to accept that MS was not something that I could just “fix.” To be honest, I was feeling sorry for myself when one day I was reading an interview with Kay Yow. At the time, Kay was the head coach for the North Carolina State women’s basketball team. Kay was asked how she could remain positive while battling cancer for the third time. She responded, “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.” After reading this, I knew I needed to take a different attitude.

As with most things, Meg was handling her diagnosis with much more grace than I was and was attacking her disease with a positive attitude. At one support group meeting, a fellow MS patient made the statement, “Why me?” Without hesitation, Meg smiled and replied “Why not you? Why not me? What makes us better than anyone else? We have MS, now it’s up to us to do something with it.” At that moment, I knew I had to do something and find a way to make a positive impact. I began searching the Internet and looking at different MS websites, and I stumbled across the Bike MS site. I thought this is perfect, I can do that—150 miles can’t be that hard and this would be a great way to stay in shape for my career. At the time, I owned a low-end entry-level mountain bike. I quickly discovered this was not the way to ride 150 miles, so I bought a road bike and was hooked. I completed my first MS 150 in July 2007, and then followed that up with two more in 2008. In May 2009, I met Jamie Burks at the first of what I thought would be two more MS rides for the year. Instantly I knew there is no way I was going to be outdone by a cop; but, more importantly, my mission was just beginning.


Spring 2008

As spring began approaching the Ozark Mountains in 2008, life for our family was right where we thought it was supposed to be. Then odd things started happening to my beautiful wife, Marie. She began having numbness and tingling in her hands and feet, sudden fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. Over the next several months, it rapidly progressed. These “episodes” began coming more often, along with multiple visits to multiple doctors. Then in March 2008, she had her first seizure while sitting in our basement watching a movie. Just a few days later Marie woke me up bright and early, very upset, and told me she could not see out of her left eye. After several more visits to several more doctors, with no answers, it was off to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. It was there that she was diagnosed with MS, which was triggering bouts of epilepsy due to the lesion locations in her brain.

“Helpless” is the only thing I can remember feeling at that moment; however, that would soon turn to happiness I never knew we could have. Now before you think I’m crazy, bear with me and I’ll explain the happy part in due time. I think the reason for feeling so helpless is partly due to my profession as a police officer. I have given an oath to “protect and serve,” offering to put my life on the line for people I don’t even know. Yet the one person I should be protecting most, I can do nothing to help cure.

Over the next few weeks, I began scouring the Internet for information on MS and came across the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website. I noticed a Bike MS tab, and when I clicked on it the first thing I read was “One hundred rides. One destination. A world free of MS.” It took me all of two seconds to decide this is what I was going to do—ride in all 100 Bike MS rides around the country raising money and awareness for MS. It’s funny that I decided to do this because not only did I not own a road bike, but I had never even ridden a road bike. Sure I had a mountain bike and considered myself to be in good shape, but if you know anything about these rides a mountain bike is not what you want to ride. So with the help of two good friends, Dr. Marcia Preston of Preston Family Dental and Ashley Burchfield of Cycles Unlimited, I was off and rolling on my shiny new road bike.

I took on this challenge for two reasons: one, I can do something about this helpless feeling by actually doing something; and, two, I know I am not the person who is going to mix whatever chemicals together, or discover some gene, or whatever it finally takes to cure MS, but maybe I can inspire someone who does. This is where my good friend Kent Grosse comes in. In 2009 while riding in an MS 150 in Nebraska, I met of all people a firefighter named Kent and his lovely wife, Meg. We immediately hit it off by bashing each other’s professions, which may seem odd to other people but fellow police officers and firefighters understand this type of behavior. I told him my plan of riding all 100 MS rides, and he was in without ever looking back.

Present Day

Have you ever met someone and it feels like you have been the best of friends forever? Well, that is exactly what we have found. One of the things that binds this friendship is our shared value of family. Before MS, we both felt like we had strong marriages, but through our shared experiences we have discovered that our relationships have grown even stronger. We don’t sweat the small stuff, we appreciate our relationships as well as those around us, and we celebrate the small victories. So now you can see where the happiness comes from—it was finding something we had all along. We learned that you shouldn’t wait for something like MS to make you remember what matters most—make time now to take your spouse on a real date like before you were married, go on a bike ride with your kids, talk about all of their dreams until you understand them as you do your own.

Badges 4 MS is the joint venture of the Grosses and Burkses that grew from this original challenge. Our mission is to ride in each of the 100 MS Rides throughout the county. Through this mission, we hope to raise awareness and much needed funds to find a cure. Every ride we take has a finish line. For those with MS, the only finish line is a cure. That’s why we ride—we ride for the finish line!

Between both Kent and Jamie, they have participated in 26 rides across the country since they both decided to do something to help fight MS. In 2010 alone, they plan to participate in 12 rides throughout the year.

To learn more and follow along on our journey, check out the following sites:

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Country music superstar Clay Walker facing the crowd with his hands in the air during a concert