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The difference between writing a check for an important cause and riding a bike for one is Mac Dorris. In founding the Ride for Mental Health in 2017, Dorris has created an opportunity for people to do both. The event’s scenic course, stellar logistics, and excellent vibe have attracted both serious and recreational cyclists from New York to Boston. Its purpose: to raise money for McLean Hospital and inspire more people to talk about mental health issues.
The Ride has gained rapid momentum, and Dorris has ambitious goals for this year’s event, scheduled for the weekend of June 22-23, 2019. “We had 100 riders the first year, 252 the second year, and we’d like to have 400 riders this year,” Dorris said. What’s more, he has set a fundraising goal of $200,000, up from the $150,000 raised last year. He also hopes to attract more volunteers and increase the number of local and national sponsors.
Held each June in New Paltz, New York, the charity event brings together hundreds of cyclists who ride courses of 25, 50, 75, and 100 miles through the scenic Hudson Valley, raising funds that further education, research, and treatment efforts at McLean. The event also includes a dinner in the beautiful Mohonk Preserve, with guest speakers and opportunities for participants to learn more about mental health.
Dorris founded the event to support McLean, but also to pay tribute to his son Eric, who received treatment for borderline personality disorder and related issues at the hospital. He says that his son, who died in 2016, “had the A team” helping him.
“McLean has some of the very best people in the world working on mental health issues, and it’s one of the best places for borderline personality disorder,” Dorris said. “Unfortunately, Eric did not win the battle, but he fought valiantly, and we’re proud of how he fought. Our goal now is to help others. If we can help one person, it’s all worth it.”
Central to helping others through the Ride for Mental Health is encouraging open discussions about mental illness and working to fight stigma. “One of the major goals is to make mental illness not such a taboo subject,” Dorris said. “If we can attract thousands of riders to participate in hopes of ending the stigma, it would be a wonderful thing.” Dorris believes “the attention alone would have an impact in so many ways, such as increasing funding for treatment and research and changing the ways insurers approach mental health.”
To help expand the conversation, this year’s event will feature former cycling champion Juli Furtado. A winner of 17 straight World Cup cross-country races and the only rider in history to win the World Championship in downhill and cross country, Furtado recently decided to speak openly about her traumatic family history and her struggles with depression. “We’re honored and excited to have Juli at this year’s ride,” Dorris said. He hopes her talk will further the ride’s goal of increasing understanding and acceptance of mental illness.
“We want people to have a chance to meet other riders, make new friends, and talk openly about mental health,” said Dorris.
Proceeds from the Ride for Mental Health support numerous McLean research, training, and clinical care initiatives.