Jean Duffy was looking for a way to combine her two passions: suicide prevention and bike riding.
The Bellevue resident found a way, and now Omaha will host its first American Foundation for Suicide Prevention bicycle ride on May 5.
Online signups will begin in February, Duffy said. Riders can choose from three options — 12 miles, 25 miles and 50 miles — with staggered start times.
Each will begin and end at Miller's Landing, with the use of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, Riverfront Trail, Veterans Memorial Trail and the Recreation Center Field in Council Bluffs.
Five rest stops along the way will offer food and drinks, Duffy said, along with mechanical and medical support.
“Bicyclists need 200 calories minimum every two hours that they are riding,” Duffy said. “Experienced cyclers know to bring stuff. These stops will help those that don't.”
The whole purpose for the ride — suicide prevention — hits home for Duffy. Her sister committed suicide, and Duffy suffers from depression. Duffy wanted to raise awareness, and as a member of the Bellevue Bicycle Club, a bike ride seemed to be the perfect way to do it.
Duffy found a ride in Connecticut that was put on by the suicide prevention foundation. She volunteered there and learned that the foundation wanted to spread these rides across the country. Duffy suggested Omaha because of its active bike community and its residents' generosity. Many months and presentations later, the Omaha event was born.
“I don't know that there are too many events that we can draw this kind of audience into,” said Adam Duggins, chairman of the board of directors for the AFSP Nebraska Chapter.
Duffy said she hopes to reach out to Offutt Air Force Base personnel because of the 16 percent increase last year in military suicides.
“We are reaching out to Offutt Air Force Base to get some active and veteran riders,” Duffy said.
For now, Duffy's team has a goal of 200 riders' raising $50,000. Riders will be given a recommended amount to raise depending on the race they participate in, Duggins said.
Riders participating in the 50-mile ride will be asked to raise $750; the 25-mile, $500; and the 12-mile, $250. Riders will be able to create their own websites asking for donations.
“We are hoping word of mouth will bring us more riders next year,” she said.
Duffy's passion for cycling began as a child and more recently helped her lose weight. She now participates in multiple rides every year and is a licensed bicycling instructor.
“In a way bicycling saved my life,” she said. “Now I'm using bicycling to save other lives.”
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