When Shellharbour accountant Lachlan Stephenson first did the MS Sydney to the Gong Bike Ride 18 years ago, he also had to pound the pavements to collect sponsorship.
Online donations have made that task much easier and this year, with five days to go until the annual ride this Sunday, the 39-year-old has already raised $3775 in sponsorship.
That makes him the 30th highest individual fund-raiser for the 2013 event, which puts him in good stead to reach his personal fund-raising target of $5000.
Mr Stephenson said he took part in his first race in 1996 for the physical challenge but in the years since, fund-raising has become his main motivation.
‘‘I just wanted to challenge myself originally, but I’ve since met a number of people who have multiple sclerosis (MS) and so raising funds for the cause has become my major challenge,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve raised around $26,000 in the past 18 years. In the early days, it was harder to get sponsorship but it’s made it a lot easier to raise funds since it’s been online.
In the past few years he has been in the list of the top 100 individual fund-raisers.
‘‘I haven’t missed a year since my first ride and my aim is to do the ride every single year I am physically able.’’
This is the 32nd year of the iconic cycling event and organisers hope to raise $4.5million for people living with the devastating neurological condition, which affects more than 23,000 people in Australia.
‘‘There are many reasons why cyclists take part in the MS Sydney to the Gong Bike Ride – a fun day out, a fitness challenge or an opportunity to ride with friends, family and colleagues,’’ MS Australia spokeswoman Jan Staunton said.
‘‘However, if you’re not keen to ride you can still contribute by volunteering or donating.’’
Money raised goes to support people with MS.
Participants are capped at 10,000 for safety reasons and riders can choose to take on either the 90-kilometre course from Sydney Park, St Peters or the 58-kilometre course from Engadine.
All riders will experience the spectacular scenery through the Royal National Park, Sea Cliff Bridge and the coast road to Wollongong.
The most challenging part is coming off the Sea Cliff Bridge and into Clifton, where there’s a sharp incline, Mr Stephenson said.
‘‘There’s amazing scenery all the way along the ride but the best part for me this year will be crossing the finish line where my wife Jo and two-year-old son Liam will be waiting.’’
To donate or register for the ride visit www.msgongride.org.au.