Organisers of an inaugural charity baton ride around Victoria for mental health issues among returned soldiers and emergency workers hope to make it an annual and national event.
The inaugural baton ride from February 15-19, 2017, will raise awareness of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury among these workers, past and present.
The ride is the brainchild of Shepherds cofounder Dean Marks (pictured above) who plans to take the event to every state in future.
“I’ve worked in the healthcare and security sectors for over 30 years, working with emergency services people and I’ve seen and experienced how these illnesses affect people,” he says.
“How can we ignore every day that people who put themselves on the line for us are just neglected and are taking their lives at an incredible rate?”
Dean says they also hope the ride will raise $20,000 for Whiskey’s Wish. The not-for-profit organisation trains specialist assistance dogs to become companions and prevent sufferers of PTSD and TBI from committing suicide.
The baton has been hand made and engraved by Returned Service personnel at Richmond RAAF Base in NSW.
Dean says the significance of the baton is “sharing the burden” as you would in a relay race.
“You cannot win a relay alone,” he says. “We must be willing to share the burden and each do our bit.”
The ride leaves Melbourne on February 15 and consists of five legs with overnight stopovers at Hamilton, Swan Hill, Bright and Sale.
Before returning to Melbourne on February 19, the riders will visit the National Vietnam Veterans Museum, Phillip Island, where they will hand over the baton.
Dean says he hopes to attract up to 1000 riders to accompany them for the final leg back into Melbourne.
How to join
A core group of six riders will complete the whole trip and be joined along the way by local riders and clubs. To join the ride, contact the Shepherds’ Facebook event page.
Riders can nominate which leg they will join and make arrangements for the core group to meet them.
The ride is free, but volunteer riders are encouraged to make a donation.
“If we could get 20,000 people tor donate just $1 each, we would reach our goal,” Dean says.
“Don’t just hit ‘like’ on our page, make a donation. We’re not asking for the world, just $1.”
Supporters can also buy the official baton patch for $10 find out this here.