A ride against suicide through the Interlake

The Ride Against Suicide's Joshua Hart displays his commemorative t-shirt. Photo submitted by Marilyn Harris

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A couple from Northern Manitoba made a special trip across the province in efforts to raise funds and awareness for a men’s shelter they feel is needed in Pukatwagan. Their Ride Against Suicide was in memory of their son, Jordon Tyson Hart, who passed away in Thompson in 2016.

The ride raised over $200 in seven days.

“Too many of our young men are losing their lives due to suicide because they feel they have nowhere to go when things are not working out at home, or within their relationships,” Marilyn Harris told The Interlake Spectator on July 12.

“My son took his life. He was 26-years-old raising four children while going to university,” Harris explained.

Harris and her husband, Blaine, inherited their late son’s children and have been raising them since.

Now in Winnipeg, Marilyn says her grandchildren are doing quite well.

“They all dance powwow, they all hoop dance, they all hand-drum and they’re always very active,” she said.

After getting a handle on their new lives, the Harris’ began to plan for their Ride Against Suicide.

Her husband said that too many people are losing hope because they that there are no other options.

“We would like to see a safe house built (for men),” Blaine explained.

“(Somewhere) they can go sit down and talk with someone face to face instead of talking on the phone. Lots of time, people may just need a hug or even a shoulder to cry on,” he continued.

The ride

The couple left Thompson with two other riders, Olivia Caribou, Jesse Hart and their son Joshua Hart, on July 2.

They created and brought t-shirts to give people who donated towards their cause, as a momento to commemorate their ride.

Inscribed with a bright purple route-map and a special area designed below for folks to write the names of those they lost, the t-shirts read: “Cycling in memory of our loved ones who lost their lives due to suicide. Every 10-kilometres, a rose will be placed along the highway to commemorate those who lost their lives to suicide.”

They brought a van along and took turns riding their bikes with Caribou and the Harts.

“We would do 5 kilometres, then switch. This way no one would over-exert and hurt themselves,” Blaine explained.

“It was long hard journey but I would do it again if asked. We just needed better bikes,” he said.

Blaine explained that the bikes they had were donated by friends.

“They weren’t in the best shape but they got us from Thompson to Winnipeg,” he said.

The over 800 km trip had them staying nights in Ponton, Grand Rapids, Ashern, Lake Manitoba First Nation, Ebb and Flow First Nation, Portage La Prairie and Winnipeg, respectively, over the week-long trip.

They rode through the Interlake for about two days out of their seven day journey.

“The third night was the most welcoming stay. (We) had fresh bannock and pickerel for a late dinner made by Vernon Paul,” Marilyn recalled. “The fourth night we camped at my brother-in-law’s, Darryl Harris, (in his) front yard.”

Then they made their way to Portage La Prairie to stay the night with their daughter Melissa O’Brian.

They exchanged donations for t-shirts on each stop, she said.

Marilyn and her husband are hoping to continue to help raise funds for a men’s shelter, starting in her late son’s twin brother’s community.

“I want people to be aware that we really do need a men’s shelter,” she explained.

They hope to inspire other communities to do the same for their young men struggling with mental issues, or domestic violence, she said.

“I hope this becomes a annual thing until the men’s shelter becomes reality,” Caribou said.

Donations can be made to mrlnblaineharris28@gmail.com for their first project, a men’s shelter in the community of Pukatawagan, where the couple were married.