Mid Ulster may have been overlooked by the organisers of the Giro D’Italia, but another massive cycling event involving thousands is coming this way.
The hugely successful Cycle Against Suicide, which started in the south last year, is coming North and will pass through Maghera in the first week of May.
At each stop, events will be held to promote positive mental health and to convey Cycle Against Suicide’s core message that it’s ok not to feel ok, and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help.
The cycle utilises a Homestay programme, which sees homeowners across the country providing a bed and hot meal to participants in the event.
Homestay Coordinator Geraldine Johnston said they urgently need people living in the local area, covering Maghera, Magherafelt, Draperstown, Lavey, Bellaghy, Swatragh, Kilrea and outlying areas to offer accommodation to participants for a night when the Cycle arrives in Maghera.
Anne Birt, the local Homestay Coordinator says it is a great opportunity for people in the South Derry area to play their part by opening up their homes to a cyclist for one night.
“It is clear there will be a massive buzz surrounding the cycle with hundreds of cyclists in Orange jerseys descending on St Patrick’s College, Maghera around teatime on Thursday 8th,” said Anne.
“On the morning of Friday, May 9th, cyclists will be given rousing send-off from the students there.
“The morning event will consist of high profile speakers, as well as locals and members of the student body, promoting positive mental health.”
Among those taking part in the mammoth 1,400 km cycle is Draperstown man Malachy McGuigan, who has been personally affected by suicide.
“I lost my own son in 2000 and so you try and help as much as you can,” he said.
“This will raise awareness, every day you lift the papers there is another suicide.
“One of the big things, is that the cycle will travel around schools, and that is important that we get the message across to young people.”
Malachy will finish the cycle on May 11, just one day before his 68th birthday.
Speaking after this week’s announcement, Cycle Against Suicide founder Jim Breen said: “The tide has turned in the fight to break the stigma that surrounds mental health.
“As an island we must build on the momentum that is gathering and let every mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend and colleague know that it’s ok not to feel ok and its absolutely ok to ask for help. Please, please play your part.”
If you would like to provide Homestay accommodation when Cycle Against Suicide visits Maghera, contact Anne Birt on 07889958523 or Pauline O Kane on 07929232015 or alternatively send an email to email@example.com.
Or if you would like to volunteer with Cycle Against Suicide, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Informationis available by going to www.cycleagainstsuicide.com where you can also register for any or all of the days in the two-week Cycle. Watch a video interview with Malachy, Pauline and Anne on www.midulstermail.co.uk