Soltice Ride for Elk Valley Mental Health

At 5am on the morning of June 21, 2020, Strahan Loken and Ev Eijsermans began a bike ride for mental health awareness in the Elk Valley. Strahan is an avid mountain biker in Fernie and Ev a member of the Elk Valley Suicide Task Fource. Working together, they created a route with various stages community members could join, and are raising awareness and funds to support mental health in the Valley. At the time of this article, the Go Fund Me page has surpassed its goal of $750 and the page is open until Friday - so there is still time to support this important cause! I had the opportunity to chat with these two about their epic day, here is what they had to say.

Q: How did you come up with the idea?
STRAHAN: I’d had the idea for a sunrise to sunset solstice ride for a few months, and it seemed like there was opportunity to combine it with something for positive community benefit. The Elk Valley Suicide Task Force (EVSTF) is an important initiative, so Ev and I worked out the concept in the back of a pickup truck shuttling up the downhill trails on Cokato road.

EV: As soon as Strahan suggested this idea and asked if the Task Force would be interested I jumped on it. I’d been brainstorming on how to break the silence after the Task Force's information-evening in February and then COVID happened. We originally had two more info-evenings planned both in Sparwood and Elkford that we had to cancel. Strahan’s idea seemed the perfect opportunity to open up the conversation.

Q: What were your hopes for the event?
EV:  My main hopes honestly were to continue the conversation around Mental Health, like we started with our info evening in February - to let people know that it is OK TO NOT BE OK. If then we’d raise some funds whilst doing that, that would be a sweet side benefit I thought. Who knew it would be this successful. I’m mind-blown by the support and response.

Q: Why did you feel the timing is important?
EV: Tying this into a Solstice event just felt like the right timing. Everyone deserves to feel well, now more than ever. In theses times of unprecedented uncertainty, stress, anxiety and on top of that the physical distancing, we’re all human beings that are wired for connection that need support from our community like never before. By choosing to do this know, we were hoping to show everyone that even though we’re apart right now, nobody has to be alone in dealing with their mental health.

Q: What was the feedback from the community?
STRAHAN: The community response has been incredible. Thanks to the generous support of many people we’ve raised well almost $3000 which far, far exceeded our expectations. On the day of the ride 30-40 people joined in various stages which also included some personal and important conversations about mental health.

Q: What was the result, and where do you hope to see this go in the future?
EV: I’m just buzzing with ideas of what this could be in the future. I anticipate an annual event as a collaboration between the EVSTF and the Mountain Bike Club, and making it a bit more accessible, have more family friendly stages so all ages can join in. Perhaps starting off with personal stories of people who have benefited from community connection, spending time in nature and exercising - as we all know that these things contribute to Mental Health in a positive way. If we can talk about Mental Health once or twice a year, the Task Force has succeeded.

Q: How can people get involved?
People can email the Task Force for questions, suggestions, feedback, involvement, at anytime at elkvallystf@gmail.com. With the current ideas to make this a bigger, better and an even more community involved event, all help is welcome.

Heading to meet the crew at Gear Hub for the 5am start.
Heading to meet the crew at Gear Hub for the 5am start.