On a picture perfect Saturday morning, as the sun rose over the horizon and started to warm the Cripple Creek Music Festival site south of Morden, and nestled against the eastern slope of the Manitoba Escarpment, dozens of riders from across the region began arriving to participate in the 21st Eden Foundation Head for the Hills fundraiser.
Director of Development Jayme Giesbrecht indicated 208 riders were registered for the ride, which gave participants the option of a gravel or trail route. Since the event's inception, more than $2 million has been raised to support the mental health and wellness programs of Eden Health Care Services.
Bruce Kleinsasser, from the Crystal Spring Bacon Burners, was there for his ninth consecutive year, along with 25 to 30 team mates.
"I used to work in EMS, and got to experience firsthand mental the health challenges that you deal with," he explained. "My attitude is, if we can help somebody out, by all means. This is a perfect chance, and we have fun while we're at it. You can run into almost anybody, and you'd find out somebody knows somebody, or has a relative or so on, who has mental health challenges. This is a good place to stand up and help out. That's how I feel."
Kleinsasser had two young first-timers riding with him this year, "We do a fair amount of practice beforehand, so I think I'm pretty confident. I've crashed, in the past, into the creek at one point. Killed my phone, but obviously didn't kill the enthusiasm, so we're back."
Leighton Knapp is relatively new to the Eden Health Care Services family, recently joining the team as the Program Director of Housing. This was his first time participating in Head for the Hills. He brought his wife along, for this first time ride, under the team name The Goblins.
"We thought we'd come up with a name that would strike fear into our opponents, and Goblins was the best I could come up with," he said with a smile on his face before heading out. "It's one thing to talk about mental health, but to have an event like this, which obviously is great for everyone's mental being here. It's great for the community. It's really nice for me to meet people from around here, and get to know what everyone's story is, and why they're interested in Eden. and to come out and do something like ride your bike all day is the best thing you can do."
Chris Maendel has been participating for years, and is part of the the Baker Gear Grinder cycling team, which had seven participants. He pointed to the stats which continue to show an increasing need for mental health services, and also the prevalence of mental illness.
"Another statistic I was reading this week was one in two people, but the time they reach the age of forty, need some mental health assistance," he shared. "When you think of the brain, probably the least understood part of us as human beings, and to have a foundation like Eden being champions of that type of support for people, it's huge. It's personal for me, because I have benefitted from some counselling services this year."
Final fundraising numbers are still being tabulated from the weekend.
You can listen to CFAM Radio 950 Morning Show Co-Host Chris Sumner's conversation with some of the Head for the Hills riders, below.
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