Cyclists go the distance for mental health

Community rallies in support of mental health in East Toronto.

Mental health in East Toronto was in the spotlight from March 4 to 5 when over 270 Ride for Mind event participants and sponsors came together to raise more than $281,000 – and counting! – for mental health services and facilities at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH).

Individuals and teams rode for all or part of this virtual 24-hour cycling event to drive support and awareness. Organized in partnership with the Toronto Hustle cycling team and Toronto City Councillor Brad Bradford, Ride for Mind was generously sponsored by Access Storage and Raymond James.

Most participated from the comfort of home, tuning into the event livestream hosted by Councillor Bradford. Others followed strict COVID-19 protocols and joined the councillor to ride in-person at HISTORY, a new state-of-the-art music and entertainment venue in the Beach that Live Nation generously donated for the event.

Tweet from Brad Bradford

Councillor Bradford rode around the clock for an impressive 24 hours, at the same time interviewing a line-up of special guests. Among others, they included Canadian Olympians such as speed skater Isabelle Weidemann, Steve Paikin of TVO, professional cyclists, JUNO Awards CEO Allan Reid, National Hockey League player Brandon Tanev, City of Toronto officials and MGH staff, including President and CEO Sarah Downey, Adina Hauser, Supervisor of Child and Youth Mental Health Services, and Dr. Susan MacKenzie, a psychiatrist specializing in children in youth.

Supporting care close to home

East Toronto resident and three-time event participant Matt Smith says Ride for Mind’s emphasis on supporting mental health services at MGH motivated him to take part.

“I’ve experienced [mental health challenges] first-hand. Knowing that Michael Garron Hospital is a place close to home that could be a safe place if I need to go somewhere for support, it just brings a kind of comfort,” he says.

Smith, Co-Founder of sports nutrition company Endurance Tap, notes that his family has relied on MGH many times, most recently last fall after Smith had a bike accident. “MGH took amazing care of me,” he says.

Tweet from Jennifer Matheson

Ride for Mind participant Cassandra Powell, a member of the Saddle Sisters of High Park cycling group, says that “each of us can relate to mental health differently.” As a homecare nurse, Powell has witnessed the mental toll the pandemic has taken on her patients and her healthcare colleagues. “Thankfully, for myself, I fell in love with cycling as a [stress-relieving] outlet early on,” she says.

This year’s Ride for Mind was memorable for Powell for a few reasons, including the “amazing” HISTORY venue and the fact that she set a new personal best, riding 257 kilometres with several hours still to go.

A growing need

With a 40 per cent increase in the number of patients assessed for mental health concerns in Michael Garron Hospital’s Stavro Emergency Department between 2019 and 2021, our community needs support more than ever.

Proceeds from Ride for Mind are helping to ensure MGH can provide cutting-edge mental health facilities and programming to support people of all ages in East Toronto. Opening next winter, our Ken and Marilyn Thomson Patient Care Centre will have one-and-a-half floors dedicated to caring for children, teens and adults hospitalized with acute mental health issues.

Tweet from MGH

Event proceeds are also aiding our donor-funded Transitional Youth Program, which breaks down barriers to accessing mental health services. Program staff help young people, ages 16-29, navigate the complex mental healthcare system by quickly connecting them with appropriate services in the community. Learn more about challenges to mental health in East Toronto and how donations to Ride for Mind make a difference by viewing this recent panel discussion hosted by Councillor Bradford and featuring MGH staff.

A community like no other

“All of us at Michael Garron Hospital are incredibly grateful for how our community came together to support Ride for Mind and mental health in Toronto’s east end,” says Mitze Mourinho, President of MGH Foundation.

“To our riders, donors and sponsors: thank you for giving so generously of your time and resources,” says Mourinho. “Special thanks also go to Toronto Hustle and Councillor Bradford for being such wonderful event partners and true champions of Michael Garron Hospital.”

Ride for Mind marks the third consecutive year that MGH has partnered with Toronto Hustle to hold a 24-hour cycling fundraiser. These events have raised over $971,000 in support of MGH. It’s not too late to show your support. Click here to donate today.


Want to stay up to date on mental health programming at Michael Garron Hospital and our campus redevelopment? Follow us on social media – Instagram/Twitter: @MGHFoundation, Facebook: @MichaelGarronHospitalFoundation