Amelia Nordhaus and her mother, Tanya Nordhaus, of Farmington Hills, pose for a photo together at Tayna’s work, Eye Level Learning Center of Farmington Hills.

Amelia Nordhaus and her mother, Tanya Nordhaus, of Farmington Hills, pose for a photo together at Tayna’s work, Eye Level Learning Center of Farmington Hills.

Photo by Jonathan Shead


People power needed to push local MS awareness forward in Farmington Hills

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published November 18, 2019

 Participants of Amelia Nordhaus’ third annual Little Bike-a-Thon for MS sit at the starting line.

Participants of Amelia Nordhaus’ third annual Little Bike-a-Thon for MS sit at the starting line.

Photo provided by Tanya Nordhaus

FARMINGTON HILLS — As people gear up to give back this holiday season, Tanya Nordhaus, of Farmington Hills, said people power — donations of their time and efforts — may be worth more than money.

“People power translates to dollars, especially for multiple sclerosis,” said Nordhaus, who has MS.

MS is a chronic disease that damages the sheaths of a person’s nerve cells in their brain and spinal cord, which can cause numbness, impaired speech or impaired muscle coordination, blurry vision, and severe fatigue.

“For me, I deal with extreme fatigue. I’m tired all the time, and I have sensory issues that drive me nuts,” Nordhaus said. “The good news about MS is they’re trying out remyelination drugs, which will help fix what damage has been done to those of us with MS. … While I would love a cure, this is as close to a cure as I can even conceptualize right now. That, in itself, is so exciting.”

Nordhaus has been working to raise awareness of MS for over 20 years now, including 10 years prior to knowing that she had the disease.

Each year, her family and a coordinated group of friends participate in the Mid-Michigan Bike for MS ride. Last year, her team raised approximately $74,000 for MS. Nordhaus raised $24,000 through her annual An Auction to End MS event in May.

Three years ago, Nordhaus’ daughter Amelia, age 7, decided she wanted to get involved, so she created her own bike-a-thon, Amelia’s Little Bike-a-Thon for MS, which has been held each May at Kenbrook Elementary School for children 9 and younger.

Amelia’s most recent bike-a-thon raised $3,000 — nearly twice as much as in the past two years — and saw a larger number of attendees than in any year prior. As word spread about the event this year, Big Smiles Orthodontics, of Livonia, donated a bike to be raffled to help increase the amount of money raised.

While the Nordhaus family has seen some record highs in terms of money raised and community support in their various efforts to support MS, they’re not ready to stop there.

Nordhaus said she’s always open and looking for more community members to join her family so their efforts can grow even larger. Her family has already been talking about ways to expand her daughter’s event and make use of a larger bike course.

“If people want to, (they can) start thinking about ways they can sponsor (Amelia’s Little Bike-a-Thon for MS) or how they can help us with logistics, because I am no expert at this by any means,” Nordhaus said. “If anyone has an expertise in organizing events, this would be a great opportunity to help out and put together a team to help Amelia with this so we can make it great for next year and for years to come.”

As Nordhaus starts to prepare for her annual auction — which will be held May 2, 2020, at the Farmington Garage, 33014 Grand River Ave. — she could also benefit from having more people “pound the pavement” with her in search of gifts or sponsorships for the auction. She said simply showing up for the auction and supporting her cause that way is always helpful, too.

Nordhaus said donating money to the National MS Society is a great first step, but participating in a bike-a-thon or walk-a-thon for MS is truly the best way to get involved and feel empowered about making a difference.

Tammy Willis, the director of the National MS Society’s southeast Michigan branch in Southfield, agreed with Nordhaus.

“We really need people to spread the word. It’s great when they give us money. We will always take it, and it helps people, but this is the time when we’re really trying to get people to start thinking about how they can join a team, such as Tanya’s bike MS team,” she said. “It lets them be able to tell people what they’re going to be doing and invite them to help support the cause, as well.”

With over 18,000 people with MS in Michigan — one of the highest totals in the country — and over a million people nationwide, the National MS Society’s events continue to grow, and they need more participation.

“Even if somebody doesn’t want to participate as a walker or cyclist, we need volunteers to make that experience happen,” Willis said. “That’s a great way, if you’re not going to contribute financially, to just give us some of your time. We only need two-three hours per person.”

Visit the following websites for more information on how to get involved: Amelia’s Little Bike-a-Thon for MS at littlebikeathon.com, Auction to End MS at anauctiontoend ms.com, Nordhaus’ Mid-Michigan Bike MS Team page at teamcircleof friends.com and the National MS Society at nationalmssociety.org.