About 100 cyclists will set out on a 285 kilometre one-day journey next year to raise essential funds for a grassroots mental health program in Warrnambool.
'A Big Ride for a Big Life' will take off from the Civic Green on Friday February 4, with staggered starting times depending on riding ability.
Cyclists with a range of experience will ride to Docklands, Melbourne, from beginners to two-time Melbourne to Warrnambool race champion Joel Pearson.
Big Life executive officer Shane Wilson said the marathon fundraiser -now in its third year- took inspiration from the world-famous challenge.
"It's a great day, I think everyone who does it feels apprehensive," he said.
"We've got some really quality bike riders but then you've also got people like me - we've got a real variety so we break up into different groups so one group will leave at 3am and the super fast group will leave at 6am and we'll all arrive at Docklands at about the same time.
"I'm also the chair of the Melbourne to Warrnambool committee and the race is the second oldest one-day cycling classic in the world and the second longest in the world, so it's an amazing bike ride with an incredible history.
"That will take place with the professionals. But I was always well aware of the history where it used to start in Warrnambool and thought, 'well why don't we restart that but do it so that average cyclists social cyclists like myself can do it so you don't have to be a pro?'.
IN OTHER NEWS:
He said A Big Ride for a Big Life had grown from just 25 riders in 2020 to 50 in 2021 and now expects over 90 participants in the new year.
"Our bike ride last year raised $65,000," he said.
"It allowed Big Life to expand to three new primary schools. There's no government funding for what we do, so the Warrnambool Student Wellbeing Association pays for half and participating schools pay for the other half.
"Schools who jump on board are great and they're really showing mental health is such an important issue to them. But from our point of view, we rely upon the generosity of local philanthropic trusts and other local institutions.
"We have the backing of some really good corporates too in terms of Callaghans who've always been there and this year McDonalds have come on board. We're aiming to raise $100,000 this year."
He explained the Big Life program was created seven years ago by Brauer College, Warrnambool College and Warrnambool Student Wellbeing Association as they wanted to approach mental health challenges of youth in a more proactive manner.
"We wanted to stop incidents of suicide self harm depression anxiety - all forms of mental health," he said.
"We didn't want to wait for the issues to present, we wanted to make sure all our students had the skills within themselves to live a full life, be resilient, cope and thrive whereas the system at the moment is geared towards dealing with the carnage rather than making them stronger.
"This is a uniquely Warrnambool approach. We've now expanded to Koroit, Grassmere, Woodford, Warrnambool west, Merrivale and Woolsthorpe.
"The schools are delighted because we're doing stuff that just is not available and we have such a high calibre team out there.
"It's really heartening that it's a Warrnambool approach to our local area. The feedback we get from the schools is it's making a difference. never has this been needed more than ever especially on the back end of COVID.
"People talk about mental health issues, and COVID, but in actual fact Big Life is already doing this work and working so hard to make sure our kids can cope."
Those interested can donate here.
Now just one tap with our new app: Digital subscribers now have the convenience of faster news, right at your fingertips with The Standard:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.