Fifth annual Ride to Fight Suicide took place through the Valley Saturday

Updated: Jun. 12, 2021 at 7:31 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Nearly 300 motorcycle riders took off from Blue Ridge Powersports in Harrisonburg this morning to spread the word about suicide awareness.

The annual ride to fight suicide is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Mission 22, a nonprofit that provides crisis intervention services to veterans.

“The people that come here are very gracious, they understand what are needs are, they understand what the problem is that we’re trying to solve and they’ve done so much to really support us and help us as we drive toward that mission,” said Cory Brown, the Mission 22 Virginia state leader.

The event was started by Mark Ham, an area veteran who has experienced the tragedy of a suicide in his family. “I lost a son in ’15 and I just wanted to do the best I could to make sure no family had to go through what our family went through,” said Ham.

Ham organized the first ride back in 2016, which had 23 bikes and raised $2,500, the event has grown exponentially each year. “In 2019 we had 201 bikes and donated over $17,300 and this year going into this event I’ve got $12,000 so far,” said Ham. That $12,000 dollars was before the registration fees were counted.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says Ham and his event are crucial in raising funds for their greater Shenandoah Valley out of the darkness walk in October. “I think his goal is to raise about $20,000 this year and I think he’ll do it,” said Markita Madden-Puckett, the Virginia Board Chair of the AFSP. “He’s always been one of our largest fundraisers for this event so we come out to support him in all the efforts that he’s putting into the cause.”

Riders traveled through Elkton, Luray, and New Market before looping back to Harrisonburg. The event draws people from all over the east coast. “I’ve got a chapter here from New York, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and I think there’s a couple here from North Carolina,” said Mark Ham.

Ham hopes that the event will continue to show the importance of mental health awareness. “At the end of the day we’re here to support mental health and bring mental health awareness and awareness to suicide and trying to help with the prevention of suicide.”

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