A long way to roll
Two women Sk8 the State for MS, journeying from Hannibal to St. Joseph to raise funds to fight the disease
By Sara Hardin
Over the long Labor Day weekend while grills were sizzling and cornhole tournaments were underway, two women were lacing up their skates and making their way clear across the state of Missouri to raise money for multiple sclerosis (MS) research.
Melissa Dittberner and Dallis Meyer skated as a team of two for Sk8 the State for MS, which over the course of the last seven years has raised over $25,000 towards research of the disease. The duo started their trek in Hannibal and ended up in St. Joseph with a goal of averaging about 50 miles per day over the course of four days. The motivation for completing such a grueling journey is deeply personal for many who have participated in Sk8 the State, the same of which can be said for Meyer, the event’s newest participant.
“My dad has had MS since 1994,” explained Meyer. “When I was in my early 20’s, I ended up becoming his guardian. He needed a lot of help. At the time when he was first diagnosed, there weren’t any treatments for it, just medication to help ease the symptoms. He was only supposed to live five more years at that point. He passed away two years ago, so he outlived his diagnosis by at least 15 years. Melissa and I have been friends through the roller derby community. When my dad passed away, she asked if I’d like to join the team. I feel really honored to be able to help continue to find ways to raise awareness and funds towards research. 100 percent of what we raise goes to research, we don’t see or touch any of it. It’s very exciting.”
Dittberner, who founded Sk8 the State, was inspired by the charitable nature of the roller derby community to initiate her own event to raise funds and awareness for MS after becoming aware of its devastating effects on the lives of those around her.
“A lot of what we do in roller derby is raise funds for local charities,” said Dittberner. “When I first started roller derby, I got really high on that aspect. I really thought it was cool that I was able to do something for people even though I wasn’t in a position to give a lot of money. When I was in massage school, our instructor’s wife had MS. I really had no idea the chaos it could bring to people. It blew my mind what it does to humans and how it takes away their mobility. It just bothered me. When I finally decided that we were able to do something for other people, [MS research] was the go to cause.”
After this past weekend, Dittberner has completed a whopping seven cross-state skates for Sk8 the State for MS. She reflects on a particularly difficult one, where she skated 400 miles across Texas over the course of two weeks. Because each year brings its own set of challenges, special precautions have been put in place to ensure the safety of the skaters.
“One of the girls retired and is going to be our support car driver,” said Dittberner. “She’s been there every year, so it will be great to have her in the car. She’ll know exactly what we need and when to make us stop. Even if we’re saying ‘No, we should keep going,’ she’ll know better than we will, so that’s a blessing.”
So, what exactly goes into preparing for a 200-plus mile, multiple-day journey on skates?
“Lots and lots of squats!” laughs Meyer. “One day a week I will try to skate for at least an hour and a half to two hours. Three to four days a week I try to hit 15 miles or so. When you’re skating for two hours, you can put some mileage in for sure. Last week I had a 45 mile skate, and that took me quite a while. So, I’m getting ready!”
To learn more about Sk8 the State and to donate to the team’s cause, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/Sk8theState.
CUTLINE: Photos courtesy Bob Dunnell Dallis Meyer with her father Corky Meyer before a roller-derby bout. Corky passed away from multiple sclerosis two years ago. Dallis completed Sk8 the State for MS over the weekend to raise funds to help battle the disease.