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Motorcyclists rally in St. Charles for Lyme disease sufferers

ST. CHARLES – In the months leading up to a benefit in her honor, Lisa Hilton said she tried to think of words that would convey her appreciation to the motorcyclists who would support her.

Usually, she explained as bikers arrived at Fox River Harley-Davidson on Sunday morning, Lyme disease sufferers like herself have to organize their own events. The Lyme Aide Ride for Lisa was the first time “non-Lyme people” rallied around her, she said.

Hilton got the chance to address the crowd of supporters before the riders took off from the St. Charles dealership.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” the Platteville, Wisconsin, woman said.

Now in its second year, the Lyme Aide run began as a way to raise awareness of the illness, which is “something you could get in your backyard, cutting your grass,” founder Shannon Bell said.

Proceeds go toward the medical bills of each year’s honoree, she said, noting the first beneficiary was Erica Valker, her cousin.

More than 200 motorcycles participated in Sunday’s event. Bell said it speaks to the type of people bikers are.

“They live for rides and charities,” Bell said.

Hilton – who would have been ecstatic over 10 participants – was “so happy” about the awareness for Lyme disease, she said, adding that many don’t know about its chronic effects. She said her daily symptoms include dizziness and pain similar to neuropathy pain.

“It’s a lifetime battle,” Hilton said.

In her case, she said, she began feeling sick in 1991 but visited more than 100 doctors in three states before she was tested for – and ultimately diagnosed with – Lyme disease in 2005.

“It was really frustrating,” Hilton said, noting she encountered condescending doctors. “I knew there was something wrong.”

She said it helps that celebrities, such as Avril Lavigne and "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Yolanda Foster,” have announced their struggles with Lyme disease because people then start to take it seriously.

Last week, the St. Charles City Council and Mayor Ray Rogina proclaimed the month of September as Lyme Disease Awareness Month and publicly supported Sunday’s event.

“The city of St. Charles, Illinois, its council and citizens stand firmly committed to promoting awareness in regards to the devastating physical and financial effects of Lyme disease,” according to the proclamation.

“… And be it further resolved that this body enthusiastically endorses the event ‘Lyme Aide’ and recommits our community to engage in programs and activities to bring awareness.”

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