About 30 motorcyclists arrived in Billings early Sunday morning, after 1,000 miles and 19 hours of riding. Participants in the Ride For Tomorrow fundraiser hope to inspire more conversation about suicide prevention.
American Legion Riders Post 4 and Tenacious Dames women motorcycle left Billings at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning.
"Every one of us has probably been impacted by suicide or mental illness and felt this was a good cause for us to gain support for," said Tina Beach of the Tenacious Dames. "Suicide is real, depression is real, anxiety is real, and it's important that we talk about it and we start addressing it as a community."
"Got to be one of the hardest conversations anybody has ever had," said Gil Floyd, director of the American Legion Riders Post 4. "Everybody has a hard time with that type of conversation, and being able to know how to talk to somebody about it and help them get to a facility to actually give them some help is always a struggle."
While the riders are all over Montana, a big part of the ride for tomorrow's event is in the American Pharmaceuticals parking lot in the Billings Heights. The Outlaws of Octane showed classic cars and several organizations brought information about suicide.
"We've got the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Yellowstone County, Dog Tag Buddies, Disabled American Veterans, Horses Healing Spirits, Nami, the Adaptive Performance Center, Senator Tester's office, and the Vet Center van," said Deede Baker, executive director and founder of Dog Tag Buddies.
Baker also emphasized the importance of talking about suicide. "We're not talking about suicide in a way that is helpful," she said. "We're not doing anything to remove the stigma. And it's time we do that."
"We are raising funds to support QPR training which is Question, Persuade, Refer," said Abigail Harper of Americorps Vista, who helped organize the event. "It gives people the tools to recognize the early signs of possibly people in crisis, and get them the help that they need."
For the riders, it's about a cause and a challenge. "You're pushing your body, you're pushing your mental," said Beach. "It's something you can say yeah, I did it."
"My motorcycle is my counselor," Floyd said. "It's where I get out and I'm able to clear my head."
And they hope to make this an annual event: "Absolutely, I already plan the next year's ride," Floyd said.
If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, contact the Montana Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; you can also text MT to 741741. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
NOTE: If you are experiencing an emergency (immediate danger of harm to self or others), please call 911.