The Second Annual Solstice Ride for Mental Health
This weekend on the eve of the Summer Solstive, people in the Elk Valley will be biking from sunrise to sunset... some the entire time. Some doing shorter, family-friendly sections. Others joining friends, remembering those lost to mental illness by riding one of their favourite trails. It all started last year as a fundraiser for the newly formed Elk Valley Suicide Task Force. This year, in collaboration with the Fernie Mountain Bike Club they are raising awareness and working towards ending the stigma around mental illness. We caught up a member of the Task Force, Ev Eijsermans to learn more and here is what she had to say!
Q. When and why did the Solstice Ride begin?
The Solstice Ride began in 2020. Local Strahan Loken always had a personal goal to one day, bike from sunrise to sunset on the longest day of the year. He approached me to see if I had any interest in tying this into a fundraiser for the Task Force. We had only just formed the Task Force a few months prior and gladly accepted the opportunity to raise money and awareness for Mental Health & Suicide in particular.
Q. What was the experience like for those involved and what kind of feedback did you get?
As it all came together somewhat last minute last year, we didn’t quite know what to expect. But the feedback and vibe throughout the day was amazing. We started the 5am ride up Slunt with about seven people and finished the evening lap on Swine Flu with 17 or 18 people. Most people joined the last stage to support Strahan, who by then had been biking pretty much non stop since 5am.
To have that many people together at the Swine Flu bench later in the evening, to all connect and ride together, was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.
Q. What is different this year and how can people get involved?
The format this year is a little different in the fact that we want to focus more on the Mental Health aspect of activity, being outside, community, nature and connection. There are five different stages throughout the day, so if your goal is to ride from sunrise to sunset, you can still do that. But if your goal is to get outside that day, ride your bike, or connect with a friend, you can pick any stage and also be part of this day.
People can get involved by showing up at the Aquatic Centre at the designated start times of the five different stages. The Task Force will have a Mental Health Booth set up throughout the day (from 8-8) with different resources available. There will also be coffee and snacks donated by Miners Mud, whilst supplies last.
Please know that there is no registration fee or requirement for this event, as it is not a race. It is people's own responsibility to ride in a safe manner and decide how much and how long they want to ride for.
Q. What do you hope the impact of this event and others will have on Mental Health awareness?
As per the Task Force’s mission, we hope to continue to break the stigma around Mental Health and suicide in particular. We hope to continue the conversation that it is ok to not be ok. We hope that the Elk Valley will become a place where vulnerability about your Mental Health will be as cool and accepted as riding your bike.
Q. Anything additional you would like to share or add?
We can’t thank our community enough for the support the Task Force has received since we started in February 2020. We are so proud of our community for having the courage to address the stigma around Mental Health.
We are currently working on a few different projects, which of one of them is a website that will be launched by the end of June. Stay tuned.
Thanks, Ev! Remember to support trail maintenance, development, and enhancement and to ensure long-term access, purchase your Fernie Trails Pass HERE!