Community cycling event hits higher gear for mental health

For the second year in a row, the Forest City Cycling Challenge rolled past its fundraising goal to support youth mental health research and the purchase of exercise bikes for patients at St. Joseph's.

It was the sound of celebration as the spinning wheels of hundreds of bicycles raced or coasted during the Forest City Cycling Challenge. The final destination was an important one – enhancing care for those living with mental illness.

The 2nd annual event held in June was open to cyclists of all skill levels, with routes ranging from 25 km to 160 km. The ride began and ended at the Lerners Lawyers building, where riders were greeted by music, food trucks, and scores of volunteers.

Prizes were awarded to participants who raised the most money. Fittingly, Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, recently retired President and CEO of St. Joseph's Health Care London, earned bragging rights as the top fundraiser.

Event Founders, Joe DiBrita, Tim Mason and Alfonso Campos Reales hoped to match the $40,000 raised at their inaugural event. But their hard work, paired with the incredible enthusiasm of riders and fundraising supporters, turned the event into a runaway success that raised more than $60,000.

“We are totally blown away by the love and support people have shown for the Forest City Cycling Challenge,” says Alfonso, who also sits on the Board of Directors at St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation. “Mental illness affects so many people in our community, so it’s been an honour to give back to this important cause in such a meaningful way."

Proceeds from the event supported Mental Health Care at St. Joseph’s and the purchase of exercise bikes dedicated to those with severe and persistent mental illness. From the moment they arrived, the bikes have been a hit with people receiving inpatient mental health care.

“It’s been a huge benefit to our patients to be able to jump onto the bike whenever they feel like it,” says Kerrie Dewachter, coordinator of the Treatment and Rehabilitation Program at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building. “Their clinicians can even hop on with them for one-to-one connection while they’re enjoying physical activity.”

Event proceeds also supported the Mental Health INcubator for Disruptive Solutions (MINDS), which is a social innovation lab addressing youth mental ill-health and addiction.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this year’s event a great success. Planning is already underway for the 2023 event, so mark your calendars for Sunday, June 4!

Check out event photos and spot some riders you know.

group of people holding up large vanity cheque
Event founders, Alfonso Campos Reales (second from left), Tim Mason (middle) and Joe DiBrita (second from right) present the proceeds from the 2022 Forest City Cycling Challenge to Therapeutic Recreation Therapists, Sula Larochelle (left) and Cory Ewart (third from left), Mackenzie Pace (third from right) Foundation Events Officer, and Kerrie Dewachter (right), Coordinator of the Treatment and Rehabilitation Program at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building.
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