2013 Ride to the Red Centre Wrap Up

The 2013 Black Dog Ride to the Red Centre was an amazing event, unprecedented in size, media coverage, fundraising and the heartwarming support throughout every community in which we traveled.

More than 675 riders took part, and over 300 rode all the way the Red Centre. To date more than $350,000 has been raised for Lifeline Australia and Mental Health First Aid Australia. The awareness raised of depression and suicide prevention is both incalculable and invaluable.

Black Dog Ride's small devoted team faced some hurdles in getting this year's Ride to the Red Centre up and running, and once the registrations were open we were floored to see the level of interest, with Red Centre Rider tickets selling out in only 5 days.

Due to safety concerns and not wanting to compromise the spirit of the Ride, Steve wrote a blog, It Isn't Just About Riding Your Bike, to assure riders that it's not the distance travelled but participation that counts. We subsequently received great feedback, including this and this from Night Riders and Day Riders.

Lifeline Australia and Mental Health First Aid Australia were chosen as the beneficiaries of the Red Centre fundraising. Funds will be directed to Lifeline's Online Crisis Support chat service and funding Mental Health First Aid Instructors across Australia. Black Dog Riders took up the awareness and fundraising challenge with gusto, and a couple of stand outs include Steve Linday's pub fundraiser, and Felicity Loader's school fundraiser. View the top ten fundraisers here.

Lifeline Australia's Petrina Stamenkovic with the ACT Black Dog Riders before they depart for the 2013 Ride to the Red Centre

Lifeline Australia's Petrina Stamenkovic with the ACT Black Dog Riders

In the lead up to the Ride, Black Dog Ride was proud to pass a Million Dollar Milestone and also had it's very first fully registered K9 pillion, Mindy the Black Staffy! A rider also had a roo'd encounter, but thankfully managed to replace his bike in time for the ride. The media interest escalated, and you can catch up with it here. (More media still to come!)

QLD Launch of the Black Dog Ride to the Red Centre 2013 by Kate Flematti

QLD Black Dog Riders prepare to depart for the Red Centre

Then at last, on August 17th, Black Dog Riders from every corner of the nation departed for the Red Centre. Battling all weather conditions, there were a few scrapes, including Derek who got by with a cuddle from Winston, and John from Collie, WA. John came off his bike at Jerramungup, WA, but in a testament to his own fortitude and the professionalism of Black Dog Ride's first responders, John was out of hospital within a day and sent us this message.

At the end of Day 1, Black Dog Riders in every state met MHFA Instructors who talked to us all about MHFA and the importance of improving community mental health literacy. A sincere thanks to these MHFA Instructors: Jodus Madrid, Brett Kipling, Florence Davidson, Anne Watson, Betty Kitchener, Ruby Berg, and Larissa Knight, who generously donated their time to our cause.

Mental Health First Aid Games on the Ride to the Red Centre 2013

MHFA Instructor Brett Kipling kept WA Black Dog Riders entertained with a game of Heads or Tails

Lions Clubs of Australia stepped up to the plate, so to speak, in providing delicious daily feasts fit for kings and there was nary a sausage in sight! In addition, Lions Clubs around Australia have donated over $20,000 to the cause!

Sadly, the reason we were riding was hit home to us when we learned, prior to our visit to Wudinna, that the president of the Lions Club of Wudinna had taken his life a week earlier. Read more in our blog, The Australian Farmer. Departing Ceduna for Wudinna, all riders rode in convoy, meeting up at the Australian Farmer sculpture in Wudinna and to the delight of riders, the school children lined the roads and waved us in to town. We spoke with the Wudinna Lions Club Treasurer Terry Spence and the Wudinna Area School Principal Marla McCallum, and we heard from Year 12 Student Brock about what Black Dog Ride means to him. Black Dog Riders bought the high school students Black Dog Ride beanies, and the local kindergarten children enjoyed exploring the Black Dog Rider's bikes.

Steve Andrews Presents a Kimba Highschooler with a Winston - Ride to the Red Centre 2013

Replete from a yummy Lions lunch, Steve Andrews presents a Winston to a Kimba High School student

Onwards to the traditional southern states meet up point in Port Augusta where West Augusta Football Club was filled wall to wall with Black Dog Riders. Tina, a local mother of three whose husband had tragically taken his life only months earlier, visited with us and was given a specially commissioned Winston by the SA riders. Chez who formed a support group for those bereaved by suicide spoke to us, and we heard from a Black Dog Rider about how his friend's persistence helped him get support for his depression (and also that he's single!).

Southern States meet up in Port Augusta - Ride to the Red Centre 2013

TAS, VIC, ACT, NSW, SA and WA Black Dog Riders filled West Augusta Football Club

Meanwhile, at every fuel stop around the nation, Black Dog Riders were chatting to the public about suicide prevention, with Winston proving yet again to be a fantastic ice breaker. Michelle bought a Winston and stopped by our Facebook page to give us feedback, and the Woollams let local children enjoy their Can Am complete with a Winston in knitted riding gear. Winston was also spotted in wet weather gear!

While the QLD and NT riders enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of Tennant Creek, southern states riders were yet again given a very warm welcome by Coober Pedy. Heading to Alice Springs, the Command Vehicle Crew stopped for some fun and games on a salt lake.

Finally, an exhausted but excited bunch of Black Dog Riders met together in Alice Springs, and enjoyed a memorable Welcome to Country by Marie Elena Ellis, then spent the evening catching up with old friends and making new ones.

South Australian Black Dog Riders arrive in Alice Springs - Ride to the Red Centre 2013

SA Black Dog Riders arrive in Alice Springs

Friday dawned and the euphoria was tangible, with 300 Black Dog Riders preparing for their procession through the Todd Mall. Alice Springs didn't let us down, with the public coming out in droves to see the unique spectacle of 300 Black Dog Riders riding through their Mall. Riders were welcomed by the Mayor of Alice Springs Damien Ryan, then heard from Dave McKenna, street bike freestyle rider, and his personal reasons for supporting Black Dog Ride, before being gobsmacked by his awesome stunts. This was followed with a great ride through Bojangles Saloon by dozens of Black Dog Riders, organised by SA Coordinator Paul Whittenbury.

Euphoric Black Dog Riders Youngie and Nic after the procession through the Todd Mall - Ride to the Red Centre 2013

Youngie with Nic "the German Painter Chick" after a memorable ride thru Alice Springs' Todd Mall

The culmination of all this hard work was the Friday Night Function, and we were again spoiled by local Indigenous artist Tommy Crow who did a live painting for us. Joining us were CEO of Lifeline, Jane Hayden, Lifeline Alice Springs representative Rob Loane, and MHFA Instructor Len Kanowski. Ride awards were handed out and we were regaled with rider's tales, the auction was held and we were lucky enough to have a real auctioneer this year, thanks Herbie Neville! The auction raised an incredible and unprecedented $14,700 for Lifeline and MHFA! The raffle took place and the night wound down. Our heartfelt thanks to the donors of all auction and raffle items, in particular Clayton Gordon, Tommy Crow, Jason Fischer, Mining Information Systems and Richard Outten, from HP Australia.

The pace hasn't slowed down since we arrived back home. We ask for your patience while our volunteers sort through the logistics of wrapping up an event of this size - whilst planning for the next rides which you can read about here. A final Rider's Update will be sent out in due course and we'll keep riders informed about the upcoming cheque presentations and MHFA Instructor training opportunities.

A word from our beneficiaries:

CEO of Lifeline Australia, Jane Hayden, tells us,

"It is difficult to express Lifeline's gratitude to participants in the Black Dog Ride to the Red Centre for the funds raised that will enable our crisis supporters to connect with over 5,600 help-seekers to Lifeline's new Online Crisis Support Chat service. Many of these help-seekers will successfully avert a personal crisis escalating into a suicide attempt or tragic death. The dinner in Alice Springs brought home to me the appeal of the ride to men and women from all walks of life, many of whom had shared personal stories on their journey across Australia. It was clear that those stories and the ride had grown a hands-on understanding of mental health and suicide prevention that would be taken back to the families and communities from where they had begun."

And from Betty Kitchener OAM, CEO of MHFA:

"Steve Andrews told me it would be an amazing weekend. He was so right. I accompanied a group of Black Dog Riders from Sydney to Broken Hill on 17-18 August 2013. Yep, there were some big loud black bikes and big (and small) blokes (and ladies) in leather, and they were a group of wonderful people. They were not just out to enjoy an organised bike ride together, but to strengthen the communities they rode through and to support each other to improve their mental health. They all contributed to fundraising to help Lifeline and Mental Health First Aid Australia to improve services and education of communities about how to help people with mental health problems. I now know the different between bikies and bikers and only wish I was strong enough to be able to accompany this ride next year on a motor bike. Thank you Steve and your crew for such initiative, ability and caring to make such an event happen."

A deeply sincere thank you to all of our sponsors and supporters, the wonderful Lions, our beneficiaries Lifeline and MHFA, all donors, our hard working volunteer Ride Coordination Teams, and especially all of the Black Dog Riders for making the 2013 Ride to the Red Centre the biggest, most successful and memorable yet. Black Dog Riders set out to start a national conversation about suicide prevention and raise funds for mental health services. We've succeeded in building a strong national network of mental health advocates and raising the profile of mental health in every community, in addition to the incredible $350,000 in funds raised for Lifeline and MHFA.

Special mention to the man who founded and coordinates Black Dog Ride, the man whose passion to raise awareness of depression and suicide prevention is the driving force behind the Black Dog Ride to the Red Centre. Steve Andrews, thank you.

Black Dog Riders ride through the Todd Mall in Alice Springs - Ride to the Red Centre 2013 Image by Ric's Uncle Bob

Share your feedback on the Ride with us here: http://is.gd/RC2013wrapup, and keep up the conversation about suicide prevention! Hope to see you all on the next Black Dog Ride!

Black Dog Ride