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Tour de Farms team leader earns Volunteer of the Year award

Petal Pushers Team NIU ConvocatiCenter home base for MS Tour de Farms.  |  Submitted

Petal Pushers Team at the NIU Convocation Center, home base for MS Tour de Farms. | Submitted

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Updated: December 21, 2013 6:06AM

For Ball Horticultural Co. research director Michael Kramer, riding a bicycle 50 miles or more through DeKalb County farm fields is fun. Cheering on his teammates and helping his good friend fight multiple sclerosis is more fun.

Kramer and 65 of his co-workers and friends participated in their second Tour de Farms last June, raising $53,091 for the Illinois chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Team Petal Pushers’ efforts earned them second place in fundraising at the statewide event and won Kramer an Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award last month.

“I got to collect the award because I’m the team captain, but I make sure that everybody understands that it’s a team achievement,” he said.

The Geneva resident organized Team Petal Pushers in early 2012 to honor his friend and co-worker, Ball treasurer Todd Frauendorfer of Aurora, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007. Frauendorfer rides with the team as well as serving as its official team champion.

“I was never a serious cyclist until I got MS,” Frauendorfer said. “My diagnosis gave me a good reason to get in shape. Riding in the Tour de Farms helps me feel like I’m actually doing something against MS instead of just living with it.”

Tour de Farm participants commit to raising at least $300 each through the event, either by donating money themselves or by getting pledges from friends and relatives. In 2012, Team Petal Pushers recruited 25 riders and raised more than $25,000, for which it was named the Rookie Team of the Year.

“Our goal for the coming year is to have 100 riders,” he said. “We were the third largest team in the state this year, and we want to be the largest next year.”

That’s good news for John Blazek, president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Illinois chapter.

“With thousands of participants, this is one of our largest events of the year, and we’re encouraged by so many people coming together to join the movement to end MS,” he said.

Since most team members are Ball employees and their spouses, the Tour de Farms has boosted camaraderie in the office as well as at the event, Frauendorfer noted.

“This has brought together people from all parts of the company to work side by side for a common goal,” he said. “I told our human resources department that this is probably the best team-building exercise we could have.”

Kramer doesn’t see any downside.

“The ride is fun, there’s good music and food at the base camp, and the atmosphere is incredible,” he said. “It’s a really satisfying experience for everyone involved.”

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