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The Ride That Has the Young at Heart

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Back in 2003, a group of fathers whose children attended Floreat Primary School decided to form a small cycling club. What started as an occasional pedal around the Swan River has now transformed into one of the most successful charity events in Western Australia; the Hawaiian Ride for Youth. Graham Iddles, 57, (pictured) has completed the gruelling ride from Albany to Perth since its foundation.

“After a couple of years of riding our bikes around the river, we got a bit bored,” he says. “So one of our members, gym-owner Peter Trench, suggested that we should ride for a cause. Another of our members, solicitor Gus Irdi, was involved with local organisation Youth Focus, and as we all had children, we happily adopted them as our chosen charity.”

The cycling group set themselves the challenge of riding 700 kilometres and after months of training, 24 riders set out from Albany towards Perth.

“Our inaugural ride was a pretty small affair,” Graham recalls. “I remember it rained all week and we raised around $150,000.”

Year by year, the ride became well- organised and attracted more and more riders and support. By its tenth anniversary, the Hawaiian Ride for Youth saw 79 riders raise over one-and-a-half million dollars. This year, 142 will take part and hope to raise well over two million dollars.

“The ride is now so popular,” says Graham “that we have three separate groups riding different routes; coastal, inland and wheatbelt. And each group has its own support team of people and vehicles to provide food, mechanical help and a much-needed massage.”

But the Ride for Youth isn’t just about raising money; it’s also about raising awareness of youth mental health issues. Youth Focus works with young people around the State to help with the problems of suicide, depression, anxiety and self-harm.

“As part of the ride, we go into schools along the route and talk to the kids about these important issues,” says Graham. “In the early days, the schools weren’t keen for us to raise what is a delicate and difficult subject. So the kids’ questions used to be about our bikes and our training. But now, with help from a Youth Focus counsellor who travels with us, we’re welcomed at schools to talk openly with kids of all ages.”

“With the primary school children, we talk about feeling sad or lonely. And with the older kids, we have a discussion about depression and suicide – and tell them how they can get help if they need it.”

Much of the money raised goes towards funding extra Youth Focus counsellors in regional Western Australia.

“During the ride, we see the extent of the mental health problem in our young people,” says Graham. “It is clear that they really need our support.”

Youth Focus works with young people and their families to provide a holistic approach to their mental health problems. The work is difficult and can take many months of counselling to achieve a result. Last year, the organisation helped  more than 2,000 young Western Australians through the provision of free, unlimited counselling sessions.

Graham, formerly a keen triathlete, says anyone can take part in the ride. “We have many people who are keen cyclists take part,” he says “but every year we welcome new riders who are cycling for the first time. As long as you are prepared to train, anybody can do it.” 

“I’ve been with the ride since 2003, and I am doing it again this year,” Grahams says. “It gives me an enormous amount of satisfaction every time I do it. Children really are our future and we have a duty to look after them.”