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Mac Dorris and his team are well into the planning for the 2021 Ride for Mental Health, and they’re hoping that this year will bring the ability to cycle safely in groups again. Registration opened on February 1, and interest is already robust.
Launched in 2017, The Ride has raised nearly $600,000 for McLean Hospital and has become an annual event eagerly anticipated by hundreds of cyclists, volunteers, sponsors, and friends.
Dorris founded The Ride to help channel his deep grief at the loss of his beloved son Eric, who struggled with mental health issues. Now, five years into this effort, Dorris has created something truly special—an ever-growing community of individuals who flock to join him every June to ride together, speak openly about mental illness, learn from each other, and raise funds to support treatment, education, and research at McLean Hospital. Together they #Rideawaythestigma.
In 2020, Dorris quickly and smoothly reimagined The Ride and introduced “Together … Apart” asking this dedicated following of cyclists and supporters to participate despite the pandemic—but to do it safely. He canceled the two-day in-person event and, with the help of their new jersey sponsor, JIS Orthopedics, launched an online club via the popular athletic app Strava.
Much to his delight, this model proved wildly successful and enabled cyclists who might never have participated to join from all over the world. Reduced event expenses and increased global participation enabled Dorris to present the hospital with an impressive $150,000 contribution in fall 2020.
Before COVID-19, Dorris had set a goal of registering 600 cyclists for the 2020 event in New Paltz, New York. Once he established the virtual model, The Ride for Mental Health Strava Club blossomed to more than 600 members who spent the summer and fall riding alone and in small groups raising money to support McLean. Participants hail from across the United States and around the globe—from Europe, Southeast Asia, North Africa, South America, and Australia.
At the launch of the 2021 Ride, Strava Club membership jumped to more than 1,000. As a community, they have logged nearly 40,000 miles of cycling!
Dorris encouraged the group by offering periodic prizes for longest rides, highest elevation, and even for best photographs posted to The Ride’s social media feeds. U.S. participants posted photographs of their rides from coastal Maine to the Golden Gate Bridge, and international cyclists contributed photos from Brazil, Egypt, Malaysia, and India among other places.
Dorris is cautiously optimistic that he can host the 2021 ride partially in person. He’s taking a ‘wait and see’ approach but urging people to register now and start their individual and team fundraising.
“We’re offering a hybrid model this year,” explained Dorris. “The virtual participation was extraordinary last year, so we’re maintaining our Strava club and encouraging cyclists to join us in whatever way they’re comfortable.”
Dorris is not planning the usual dinners and social gatherings that have been a part of this event in past years because, above all, he wants to be safe. “If we can have a socially distant, much smaller, and safe event in New Paltz on June 19 and 20, we will,” he said. “But we hope that many people will also join us virtually while we wait for the vaccine to roll out and COVID numbers to drop.”
Sign up now to join this important fundraiser to help support McLean Hospital.
The funds raised by this event have supported a wide variety of initiatives at McLean. The Ride for Mental Health has been an official sponsor of McLean’s annual Technology in Psychiatry Summit for four years.
Dorris has also prioritized support for individuals needing access to treatment through scholarships—particularly adolescents from families who are struggling to manage treatment costs. “If I can help even just one person, it’s worth it,” said Dorris. But The Ride, of course, has helped countless individuals.
Dorris has directed some of the philanthropy toward mental health research, including supporting innovative investigators whose research is not yet ready for federal funding, a post-doctoral training fellowship—The Eric Dorris Memorial Research Fellowship, and a new mental health summer research pilot to engage promising young black, indigenous, and underrepresented people of color in the field of mental health through a 10-week, full-time research experience.
“Mac has been an incredible friend to McLean over the years,” said Lori Etringer, MBA, McLean’s chief development officer. “The Ride is tremendous in so many ways—Mac’s team does a wonderful job putting together a seamless event in a gorgeous part of the country. But more importantly, The Ride has created a community dedicated toward eradicating the stigma of mental illness while providing crucial philanthropic support for the hospital.”
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