FRANCONIA — Bicycling isn't only good for you physically; it's also good for mental health, according to the organizers of Positive Pedalers for Mental Wellness.
"When everybody came back, they had a smile, so it did improve their mental wellness," Franconia resident Joe Dille said.
The June 2 fundraiser bike ride combined Joe's passion for bicycling — he rides almost every day, including to and from work and longer rides on weekends, along with taking part in rides to raise funds for the Delaware Valley chapter of the National MS Society's battle against multiple sclerosis — with wife Patti's mental health and suicide awareness and prevention efforts, which include being on the Montgomery County Suicide Prevention Task Force, Patti Dille said.
The ride, which started and ended at Souderton Area High School, benefited Access Services and the Peyton Heart Club of SAHS, the Dilles said.
It took place on streets in Franconia and Lower Salford, he said, with participants having their choice of a 10- or 30-mile route.
Thirty miles is not a long ride for serious bicyclists, he said. The 10 mile length is a bit of a stretch for persons not used to bicycling, so the route was set up to accommodate that, he said.
"We had that laid out to be mostly flat and on traffic-free roads," Joe Dille said.
Jason Meyers, of Indian Valley Bikeworks in Harleysville, laid out the route, along with setting up a bike rodeo for children that was also part of the event, the Dilles said. Jill Basile, a bicyclist and mother of one of the Peyton Heart Club members, was also one of the organizers, they said. Peyton Heart Club members helped on the day of the event, they said.
This was the first year for the event, which is expected to become an annual activity, the Dilles said.
There were 36 riders this year, including some husband and wife teams, they said. There were only two children in the bike rodeo, but those two had a great time, the Dilles said.
Donations of $2,670.94 to Access Services and $500 to the Peyton Heart Club were made from the money raised.
The Access Services contribution helps support the organization's Hope 4 Tomorrow initiative, Linda Wasilchick, Access Services director, resource development, wrote in an email to Joe Dille.
"Hope 4 Tomorrow is designed to educate students about mental health and suicide. In an assembly or classroom presentation, middle school and high school students are engaged in the story of the presenter's experiences with suicide and mental health. The opportunity to interact with someone who has had the same feelings they may be experiencing is powerful for students. They learn skills that bolster their wellness and feel empowered to ask for help for themselves or someone else," Wasilchick wrote.
The Peyton Heart Project's mission statement describes it as having been "created to help end suicide and bullying and the stigma surrounding mental health issues."
"The Peyton Heart Project was inspired by several stories including that of a 13-year-old boy named Peyton James who died by suicide in 2014," information on the www.thepeytonheartproject website says.
Free helmets and bike safety information provided by Montgomery County were available at the event, the Dilles said.
Information on Access Services was also available.
In future years, she would like to have more mental health services providers at the ride with information about what they do, Patti Dille said.
"I want people to understand what's there for everybody," she said.
They would also like to have bike-related entertainment and skills demonstrations, Joe Dille said.
The Dilles involvement in programs designed to help prevent suicide began after son Matt, a senior at Souderton Area High School at the time, took his life in September of 2014.
In July of this year, a 49-year-old Franconia man took his life, the Dilles said.
Each year, about 100 people in Montgomery County commit suicide, Joe Dille said.
"We just want to bring awareness and have people reach out to other people," Patti Dille said.
The Montgomery County Mobile Crisis hotline for persons of all ages, operated by Access Services, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-855-634-HOPE (1-855-634-4673). The Montgomery County Teen Talk Line, also operated by Access Services, is at phone number 866-825-5856, texting to 215-703-8411 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.