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Pedalling together: Red Deer's Hunting Hills bike-a-thon gearing up for 24-hours of biking, mental health awareness

Red Deer Advocate - 10/25/2017

For 24-hours, more than 500 students and community partners take turns riding stationary bikes to raise money for several mental health initiatives.

Last year, the Hunting Hills High School bike-a-thon raised $65,000. That money went towards mental health awareness and initiatives at the school and in the community. Teams of students ride a bike for a combined 24-hours, with team members taking turns.

"It's a community effort," said Jonathan Davies, Hunting Hills High School Leadership Advisor. "It's not just something we do at the school, it's something that is important throughout Red Deer."

Scheduled for Nov. 7th to 8th student teams will cycle all day and night on stationary bikes set up in the school's gathering space.

This year, the money will go towards community partners such as the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and Vantage Community Services; to the Red Deer Public School District supporting its equity fund and teacher mental health training; and the rest stays in the school and supports exam supports, the breakfast program, scholarship opportunities and a new informal mentorship program, started in partnership with the Women's Outreach Centre.

"Students will go through a little training and it covers everything from self-esteem and self-perception, all the way to suicide and depression," said Davies. "We're hoping to have about 100 kids go through the program."

The event also features community bikes for companies, organizations or groups to sponsor the event and take a turn at riding the community bikes.

Davies said they decided to focus more on raising awareness and community building this year, reducing the amount of money students had to raise to participate from $100 to $500 per team, which have about seven or eight members.

While not everyone can ride on bike at once, there are games, activities, food and seminars focusing on mental health and the power of social media.

"It's packed, it's hot and it's loud," said Davies. "It's a really cool atmosphere. It can be hectic and crazy … but the following morning is quiet. Then we talk about resiliency, courage and perseverance."

For more information and to sponsor the event call Davies at 403-342-6655 ext. 1230 or email hhhsbikeathon@gmail.com .

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