AP NEWS

Eagle Riders to promote children’s mental health awareness

May 16, 2018 GMT

Volunteer motorcyclists will travel across the state, including Norfolk, this week for the 11th annual Pony Express — an effort to raise awareness about children’s mental health.

The ride focuses on the message that mental health is fundamental to overall health, organizers said.

The bikers, members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and called Eagle Riders, will kick off their ride in Scottsbluff on Wednesday. During the ride — which spans almost 900 miles — the participating motorcyclists will re-enact the mail-delivery service of the storied Pony Express by picking up letters about children’s mental health written by youth, their families and other supporters. The letters ultimately will be delivered to lawmakers at the State Capitol.

“The health, safety and well-being of Nebraska children is a priority across the agency and we appreciate the Eagle Riders’ commitment to children’s mental health,” said Dr. Courtney Phillips, chief executive officer of the Department of Health and Human Services.

On May 17, the riders will make a stop in Sidney to pick up children’s letters, then head to North Platte, Gothenburg and Kearney. May 18 will take the riders to Grand Island, York, Columbus and Norfolk. The Norfolk stop is planned for 4 p.m. Friday at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park in conjunction a Parent to Parent organization event.

The final day, May 19, the riders will visit Boys Town’s main campus in Omaha and wrap up the tour on the steps of the Nebraska State Capitol, where the letters will be delivered to state leaders.

“Misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental illness are widespread, and we must change that conversation,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS. ”We thank the Eagle Riders for 11 years of important conversations about children’s mental health across our great state.”