Driving rain forced many Cycle Against Suicide participants into busses to get to Portlaoise on May 8, but St Mary’s CBS and Scoil Chríost Rí united to ensure the 800 cyclists got a warm welcome.
The small group who battled through the rain, including SCR teachers Ms Hearn and Ms O’Gorman, arrived frozen and wet to the Nagle Rice sports complex.
Hot food and drinks, cheers and smiles got them warmed up, helped by the charismatic founder of the cycle Jim Breen, who had everyone singing and dancing.
Students worked tireless moving bikes, serving cyclists and setting up the hall for the next day. The cyclists then headed off for a well earned rest provided by local homestay hosts.
Saturday began at 7.30am for students who worked hard to prepare for a mental health information morning.
A talented line-up of acts from both schools first entertained everyone.
They were followed by speakers Jim Breen, Fair City actress Aoibheann McCaul, Cavan goalkeeper Alan O’Mara and marathon runner Gary Seery, all who struck a chord with their honesty.
Twin sisters The Heathers then performed ‘Forget Me Knots’, the official song for the Cycle Against Suicide campaign.
The two week 1400km cycle across Ireland is held to highlight supports available to people if they feel depressed or suicidal, with the message ‘it’s ok not to feel ok, and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help’.
Both schools received their certs and then it was time to cycle 33km to Tullamore, on what was a bright sunny morning.
Students and teachers from both schools joined the sea of amber cyclists leaving the Borris road campus.
The successful event was the culmination of months of preparation by both schools, who have each since been awarded Amber Flags for mental health.
CBS teacher Stephanie Buckley is proud of her team of teachers and students.
“They put in so much hard work, time and energy to make the cycle the success it was. The amber flag team is about far more than attaining flags, but about the constant promotion and education about our mental health. We thoroughly enjoy the work we do and are so proud of all of our achievements and look forward to continuing our efforts next year,” she said.
Scoil Chríost Rí Guidance Counsellor Ms Hearn was delighted to take on hosting the cycle.
“It was super for the girls to get involved. And the fact that ten of them actually cycled was immense. It is so important to raise awareness of mental health and to know that there is so much help out there. We need to rid the stigma and brilliant work is being done by so many organizations around the country like Pieta House, Spun Out, Living Links and of course Cycle Against Suicide. I really hope that the government can see the valuable contribution and necessity of the guidance counselling service and reverse the 100 percent cut in the service in all schools in the republic,” she said.