"Several weeks before his death, Nick had spoken of feeling depressed. But he subsequently saw a psychologist and seemed to be responding well to prescribed medication."
Bike run raises awareness, money for suicide prevention
Nancy Haggerty • For the Poughkeepsie Journal • June 4, 2010
WALDEN Last year, 80 motorcyclists participated in the Here Comes the Sun Bike Run to benefit the Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
More people were expected, chapter Director Maria Idoni said, but most from one motorcycle group stayed home because a member's son had just killed himself.
Ironic? Definitely. But not unbelievable.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, every day 90 people in the U.S. take their own lives.
Three years ago, Wallkill resident Bryan Terwilliger joined those statistics.
He was 31, the father of a 14-month-old son and had long battled mood-swinging, bipolar disorder.
When this year's two-hour poker ride takes off Saturday from the East Side Bar and Grill in Walden, Terwilliger's sister, Michelle Terwilliger-Hathaway of Gardiner, will ride on the back of a bike, wearing her brother's motorcycle jacket.
A member of the ride's planning committee, Terwilliger-Hathaway found last year's ride cathartic.
"I cried and yelled at him," said Terwilliger-Hathaway, who described herself as being "very, very close" to her brother, although 10 years his senior.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ride is a poker ride, meaning participants stop to pick up a card at assigned areas. The best hand at the end of the ride wins a cash prize. Combine that with free breakfast and lunch, a live band and, this year, 40 raffles, and the event has an upbeat feel.
Because of that, committee member Linda Ferraro of Poughkeepsie last year anticipated those attending would simply be looking for a good time.
"But the majority were riding in memory of somebody," she said.
Ferraro's brother-in-law, Gary Ferraro, started the ride in 2008 to remember Linda's son, Nick.
In 2004, Nick, 18 and a recent Ketcham High School graduate, killed himself. A couple months later, a classmate did the same.
Several weeks before his death, Nick had spoken of feeling depressed. But he subsequently saw a psychologist and seemed to be responding well to prescribed medication.
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"We were blown away," his mother said of his death.
"For many years, many years, I couldn't say the word suicide. The word couldn't come out of my mouth. It is so horrific," she said.
But deciding, "You've got to overcome this and help other people," she helped develop what is now the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's annual fall walk.
The walk and ride carry the dual purpose of raising money and awareness. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention believes open discussion of the often-taboo subjects of depression and suicide will reduce the number of suicides.
"We try to explain it's an illness, like diabetes and cancer," Idoni said of depression.
Between sponsor contributions and rider fees, last year's ride generated $3,500. Already this year, sponsors have contributed $5,000. And Idoni expects at least 150 riders this year at $25 each or $40 per couple.
The money raised will help purchase copies of "More than Sad," a DVD about teen depression.
Idoni's chapter, which includes Dutchess, Ulster, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan and Rockland counties, has already distributed 37 copies to mental health agencies, youth bureaus and many local schools. With the latest data showing that in 2006, 1,800 Americans younger than age 20 killed themselves, she advocates schools incorporate the DVD into their health curriculum.
That's an effort Terwilliger-Hathaway supports. Last year, working locally as a teacher's aide, she noted three middle schoolers told her of feeling suicidal.
Registration for the bike run will be held from 8:30 to 10:15 a.m. at the grill at 624 Route 52, with the run beginning at 10:30 a.m. The rain date is June 19.