Heifers, steers, handlers and spectators all gathered Saturday morning at Loy Lake Park in Denison for the second-annual Riley Roundup for MS. While a supreme champion heifer and grand champion steer were selected at the event, the Roundup had a greater cause that is meaningful to organizer Jim Riley: raising funds and awareness for the neurological disease, multiple sclerosis (MS).

Heifers, steers, handlers and spectators all gathered Saturday morning at Loy Lake Park in Denison for the second-annual Riley Roundup for MS. While a supreme champion heifer and grand champion steer were selected at the event, the Roundup had a greater cause that is meaningful to organizer Jim Riley: raising funds and awareness for the neurological disease, multiple sclerosis (MS).


One afternoon about eight years ago Riley was playing softball, as he often did at the time. As the game wore on, Riley realized something was wrong. He began feeling weak, and his coach pointed out that he was not following through completely on swings. After the game, Riley was so stiff and overheated that he curled up in a ball under a nearby tree.


Fatigue, weakness and muscle stiffness repeatedly affected Riley over the next several months. Then, a little over one year after the softball game, Riley was diagnosed with MS.


According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, "Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord). It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. This means the immune system incorrectly attacks the person’s healthy tissue."


Soon after receiving his diagnosis, Riley’s MS worsened, and he had to leave his job and sell his house — a time he described as "rock bottom." Through the help of support groups, friends and medical care, Riley was able to significantly improve his health and manage his symptoms.


With his new found strength and mobility, Riley wanted something to do to help him stay active. He decided to return to an activity he had participated in during his youth: showing cattle. This led to Riley considering organizing a cattle show that would benefit MS research.


"I saw that they did benefit shows for breast cancer, and memorial shows for people who had passed away," Riley said, "And so I said, ‘One day, I’m going to do one.’ And a friend of mine said, ‘Why one day? Why not now?’"


In just five months, Riley and his friends organized the first Riley Roundup for MS. It took place in December of 2012 and raised $8,500 for the National MS Society.


This year, organizers prepared for the event to have a "sophomore slump," but Riley said he was pleased with the event’s turn out so far.


Heather Emrick Beaver of Sherman manned a MS information table at the roundup, handing out pamphlets about the disease and orange National MS Society wristbands. Beaver wanted to volunteer for the event, she said, because MS awareness is a cause that is important to her.


Beaver’s father, Joe Emrick, was diagnosed with progressive MS in 1990. In 2012 he developed pneumonia. His body was so weakened from MS that he could not recover, and he died in February 2012.


"MS has affected my life tremendously. … If one person in the family has MS, we all have MS," Beaver said.


Saturday was Beaver’s first time to help with the Roundup. She plans on helping again in the future, she said, and participates in other National MS Society events.


In upcoming years, Riley hopes that the Roundup will grow to be a two-day event. He plans to introduce new aspects like live music, food and a bigger silent auction.


Riley admitted Saturday that his MS symptoms were affecting him quite a bit, and he was tired: "I’ll be happy when it’s done. Will I do it again next year? Yes, of course. And I’ll work just as hard at it because it’s something close to me."