A dozen or so friends and supporters climbed on their bicycles and accompanied Lakeville banker Tom Mork and his three companions Thursday on the final leg of their 2,100 mile ride to raise awareness of mental illness and raise money for the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
The riders leisurely pedaled about 70 miles from Walker, Minn., to Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, marking 28 days on the bike saddles for the four who made the whole trip from Venice, La., to northern Minnesota.
Last Friday, a dozen or so people joined the foursome on the leg from Red Wing to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, where they were met by about 100 people to celebrate both the ride and Mork’s 60th birthday.
Tom’s Big Ride was two years in the making and Mork said he thought he’d get a little emotional once he was at the finish line and then back in his own bed Thursday night. He’ll be back at work as president of Lakeview Bank on Monday morning.
Both Mork and Lakeville City Council Member Doug Anderson shared their families’ struggles with mental illness with countless people along the route.
“It’s been a privilege,” Mork said. “How many people get an opportunity to do what we’ve done? It’s such an honor to take this time and spread the word that we need to talk about mental illness more than we have. In our small way, I think we’ve made a difference.”
Including pledges, Tom’s Big Ride has raised about $108,000 for NAMI so far.
Sue Abderholden, executive director of the Minnesota chapter, said she is deeply gratified.
“This whole thing has been frankly more than amazing,” she said. “We’re thrilled he raised this much money for NAMI. It’s a lot for us. It will support our programs, classes, more public awareness.
“What he really did was raise awareness along the route,” Abderholden said. “His message has been incredible and I think has really resonated with people.”
For more information, go to tomsbigride.org.