Subletter Examiner | Ride for Mental Health Awareness
PINEDALE — Boulder resident Neville Burt “eats and breathes” motorcycles.
Miles and miles of open roads in Wyoming await you – endless ribbons of asphalt with little traffic and extraordinary scenery. The speed and thrill of motorcycle culture draws a person in and creates a sense of camaraderie, an opportunity to connect with “an amazing group of people,” Burt said.
Beneath the tough, tough exterior, bikers are still human and have mental health issues. Death by suicide is “prevalent” among motorcyclists, Burt said.
Following the loss of a close friend to suicide, Burt, along with his wife Trish and fellow motorcycle enthusiast Janell James, decided to break the silence that can stifle vital conversations about mental health, especially in rural communities. .
“We wanted to change the stigma of reaching out,” Burt said. “We don’t want asking for help to be seen as weak.
Thus was born the Boulder Roll Poker Run Ride for Suicide Awareness. Now in its seventh year, the nonprofit group is committed to raising awareness about suicide and continues to grow, though the growth is “organic” in order to retain its “soulful” nature, Burt said.
The group hosts the annual Boulder Roll Poker Run in early June. Although the event is a fundraiser, the main goal is to connect and create a space where everyone can discuss mental health in a caring and inclusive environment.
“We’ve had several epiphanies this year,” Burt said. “Our core principle is suicide awareness and prevention more than fundraising. We’re here for the hugs, the tears and the laughs – creating that community. We are not here for the money.
Burt went on to describe the Boulder Roll as an “awareness event” that “also raises money.
“Even if we didn’t raise any dollars, we would still do the event,” he added.
In 2022, the Boulder Roll achieved its goal of “creating an environment where people can speak openly,” Burt said.
The group also raised well over zero dollars and contributed a significant sum to the Sublette Community Mental Health Fund, administered by Revs. Melinda Bobo and Randy Belton passing by St. Andrew’s in the Pines and St. Hubert’s Episcopal Churches.
The Sublette Community Mental Health Fund is a partnership between the Episcopal Church, the Women’s Advocacy Group and Boulder Roll. All funds raised by the groups go directly to help people struggling with mental health issues in Sublette County pay for counseling and related care.
If these brave, fearless, tough asphalt riders can be open about mental health, then anyone can feel empowered to ask for help.
“At the end of the day, it was a bunch of dirty bikers that started the Boulder Roll,” Burt said.
Changing culture one startup at a time
In small town Wyoming, tradition can be a powerful force, especially the concept of independence where “resilience” is measured by the ability to face problems alone.
“We want to build a community where people can rely on each other with a skill set to move beyond the concept of ‘pulling yourself up by the bootstraps,'” Burt said.
During the Boulder Roll Poker Run 2022, riders participated in a “stand down” ritual. At certain stops along the route, riders put down their kickstands, got out their phones and checked in with a friend or family member.
This year’s theme was “Angels Travel With Us”, devised by a band member who lost a loved one to suicide. The group has also set aside time for people to share stories related to mental health and suicide.
Bobo said the ability for people to talk on the ride is “really important” to send the message that discussing mental health is safe and acceptable.
The Boulder Roll is an inclusive event, not just for motorcycles. Anyone can ride, no matter what kind of wheels they bring, Burt said. There is no pressure for participants to donate.
“You as a person is what matters,” Burt said.
The money is raised through poker hands, a raffle and an auction of handmade items “from the soul” and “made with love”, Burt said.
The group is not going to knock on doors asking for money. His entire fundraising comes down to the generosity of donors during the Boulder Roll Poker Run.
“People want to give in so many ways,” Burt said. “Everyone on the ride is affected by suicide.”
A successful year
The 2022 Boulder Roll Poker Run attracted more participants than previous years. The group had 134 sign-ups and 206 poker hands, Burt said. The auction alone raised more money than the entire event in 2021, he added.
“It’s important for people to know that help is available,” Burt said. “You don’t have to be rich to get into it.”
Money raised by the Boulder Roll the previous year paid for 585 mental health sessions for local youth and family members in need of support, Belton said. The Boulder Roll has also helped fund outreach programs, including welcoming popular Native American musical artist, comedian and dancer Supaman to county schools, Belton added.
The increase in donations in 2022 allows the Sublette Community Mental Health Fund to “examine additional programs and different approaches” to mental health awareness, he explained.
“The Boulder Roll is a community event – community helping community,” Belton added.
The Boulder Roll and other partners in the Sublette Community Mental Health Fund are making mental health care accessible to everyone, Bobo said.
“The Boulder Roll’s work keeps the mental health fund going,” she added. “Churches can’t do it on their own.”
Bobo praised the Boulder Roll’s commitment to awareness and the ability to build grassroots organization.
“They found a way to do something, and you can too,” she said. “It doesn’t take a million dollars. You just need heart to do it.
The Boulder Roll truly comes from the heart.
“There’s a lot of soul in this band,” Burt said. “The people I meet here are simply the best.”
How to get help
Accessing the Sublette Community Mental Health Fund is simple. There is no request. All a person needs to do is make an appointment with a provider. The patient and provider determine if there is a financial need. The provider then contacts the mental health fund anonymously.
The process is simplified and confidential.
Local agencies providing counseling include High Country Behavioral Health, Teton Behavior Therapy and independent therapist Dayle Read-Hudson.
- If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, please call the Suicide and Crisis Helpline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255.