Reaching out to those affected by mental illness: Folks hit the road on two wheels or two feet in NAMI fundraiser

WATERFORD (WITI) -- Free resources were made available for those suffering from mental illness, as the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Racine County held its biggest fundraiser of the year on Sunday, September 7th. The goal of this suicide prevention event was to raise money and awareness, and reach out to those affected by mental illness.

More than 100 people got on their bikes, and dozens more were ready to hit the trails in Sunday's "Bike 'n Hike" fundraiser. All proceeds benefit NAMI-Racine County. Historically, 85% of all funds go directly to programs to support individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Participants could choose to take part in a 3K walk/hike, or a 60, 35, 20 or 10-mile bike ride.

"We do have support groups which are all free, to provide that support not only to people that live with a mental health issue, but friends and family as well," Mike Boticki, the executive director of NAMI Racine County said.

Mary Huck has lost two brothers to suicide, and is working to start a new support group designed to serve those who have lost family members and friends to mental illness.

"Most of my siblings are out here riding bikes today. A lot of the people have had the same thing that you've have gone through, so you can offer support, you can offer what worked for you, what didn't work for you. You try different things," Huck said.

Some of the money raised during Sunday's fundraiser will go toward the future support group, called "SOLOS."

"'SOLOS' stands for 'survivors of a loved one's suicide.' We came up with the name because we don't want people to have to do this on their own," Lisa Weisbrod said.

Organizers of Sunday's fundraiser say it's encouraging to see all the support.

"I think it's excellent. We appreciate the support and the understanding of the problem, which is lacking a lot of people and we hope it continues to grow," Art Wells said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the number four cause of death in adults 18-65.

CLICK HERE to learn more about NAMI Racine County.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Milwaukee Center for Independence's Behavioral Health Services.