Bicyclists pedaled 300 miles on May 19 to raise awareness about PTSD and promote mental health care. The riders didn’t move an inch.
Jimmy Lessard, a program manager at the Huntington Beach Family YMCA, and survivor of the October 1 mass killing in Nevada organized the event which saw volunteers pedaling roughly the equivalent of a bike ride from the Beach to Las Vegas.
“Our goal is to raise awareness to persons dealing with a sort of trauma,” Lessard told The Orange County Register. “We want them to know there’s a place they can receive full support.”
Over 1,000 persons attended the family event which included classes in healing art, yoga, and self-defense. In a tribute to the shooting victims, 58 doves were released. Lessard wanted to keep the event lighthearted, so he included a bounce house for kids, games and food trucks.
Lessard plans to make Ride 4 Healing an annual event.
“We want to be sure everyone has a place to go and work through the healing process,” Lessard said.
On October 1, 2017, Lessard and his wife, Brittany, attended the Route 91 music festival with friends. She left the group just before the shooting, and for eight hours, the couple was separated. Until they reunited at their hotel, neither knew if the other was alive.
Lessard told reporters that anything from a helicopter to sirens triggers his PTSD. His wife suffers panic attacks which may be triggered by a suspicious looking person or a gust of wind.
Lessard said he’s shocked by the numbers of persons who have been touched by trauma.
“I didn’t know how many others at the YMCA have dealt with traumatic events,” he said. “Many people came together as they started opening up with each other.”
According to the National Center for PTSD, about 8% of American residents suffer from PTSD at some point in the life.
When the shooting at the festival started, Lessard hid behind a bus tire while bullets pierced the cars parked around him. Lessard thought the popping sounds were firecrackers going off in the distance.
“Everyone is looking around,” he said. “I turned around and saw a row of people go down behind me.”