Local women create #irideforgood jerseys, raise money for women in recovery
Mara Rhodes has dedicated the last seven years of her life to finding new ways to connect with people about mental health issues and addiction. Her brother, Mark McManus, died of an overdose due to prescription drug addiction in 2014, and Rhodes has worked tirelessly ever since to raise awareness about substance abuse disorders and mental health.
Her latest endeavor is a little different. She and other local women and business owners partnered to create bike jerseys that have #irideforgood across the chest. Proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will raise money for Come As You Are (CAYA), the only residential recovery resource for women in Northwest Colorado. The group hopes the jerseys not only raise money but bring awareness to substance abuse disorders and the mental health issues that lead to them.
“I really have a passion for finding different avenues to bring attention to the issue,” Rhodes said. “The cycling community is one avenue in the community. There’s avenues in the medical field at the hospital and the health and rec center, avenues in public health and first responders. I think there’s always going to be opportunities to bring this to people’s attention.”
Erin Brosterhous lost her brother Christian McIntire to opioids and diabetes in 2004. McIntire, 34, was a Type I diabetic and abused opioids, which ultimately led to him dying while in a diabetic coma.
“In my mind, I feel like opioids took my brother’s life, really,” Brosterhous said.
Brosterhous grieved differently than Rhodes. She wasn’t driven to activism. Creating the #irideforgood jerseys is the first involvement she’s had in the world of recovery and addiction.
Brosterhous and a group of women from Steamboat regularly take part in the 150-mile bike ride along the Kokopelli Trail from Fruita to Moab, Utah. This year, they wanted to make team jerseys, just for fun. Originally, the group considered making a jersey promoting Blue Fire Collective, Brosterhous’ new marketing business. That didn’t feel right, though. There wasn’t a true purpose to it.
That’s when the commonality between Rhodes and Brosterhous surfaced. Brosterhous had learned of CAYA through Rhodes and proposed the jerseys benefit the faith-based recovery center.
In addition to Blue Fire and the Mark McManus Foundation, the jerseys are co-sponsored by Marie Fisher of Vibe Design Collective, Angela Melzer of Minds in Motion and Chancie Keen of Mountain Architecture.
“The reason I really wanted to do something for women is because this jersey is co-sponsored by women-led businesses in Steamboat,” Brosterhous said. “We’re all riders, and we wanted to do something for women specifically, and we wanted to do something for women facing and working through their recovery. CAYA is really the only resource in Northwest Colorado. … It made a lot of sense for us to be women helping women.”
Each jersey is $110 and can be purchased by reaching out to the five female sponsors or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. From each one, $31 will be donated to CAYA.
The #irideforgood hashtag is intentionally vague so anyone can interpret it as they wish.
“You could ride for good marketing, you could ride for good architecture,” Brosterhous said, referencing the co-sponsors. “You can ride for good and giving back to the community. The idea is I ride for something bigger than just going for a ride and getting fit.”
For Rhodes, that hashtag means she rides for the good that nature brings into her life.
“For the good feelings that riding brings to my body, the connection with my community and the world around me and how that benefits my soul,” she said. “I also ride for good in the hopes that the jersey will bring about a conversation that might help somebody struggling.”
‘Not talked about’
The money will obviously go to a good cause, but that isn’t the primary goal of creating the jerseys. The project’s larger purpose is to spark discussion about addiction and mental health, specifically in the cycling and athletic community of Steamboat.
“One of the greatest misconceptions and stigma associated with addiction and other mental health disorders is it only affects certain types of people. I think that misconception is really unfortunate, because that stigma breeds shame,” Rhodes said. “What you’ll find if you dig deeper is a large majority of athletes, whether they’re beginner athletes or Ironman competitors, a lot of them struggle with addiction and mental health. … Bike jerseys are a way to bring attention to a community that is very entrenched in athletics such as ours.”
The jersey will ideally serve as a conversation starter and help the athletic community become more comfortable with talking about mental health.
“Sometimes, just wearing a jersey might start a conversation that might help somebody’s day,” Rhodes said, “or, gosh, even save somebody’s life.”
Brosterhous believes people don’t speak enough about the fact that addiction is a mental health issue.
“Opioid addiction is everywhere,” Brosterhous said. “It’s really mental illness that’s not talked about. People turn to opioids to self medicate and ease their burden and the struggles they have in their hearts and minds. That is truly what we’re not talking about enough. The stigma is around opioid use, but it’s really around us embracing people who are struggling mentally and emotionally.”
McIntire lived in Denver and was in and out of homelessness, while Brosterhous lived a healthy and active lifestyle in Steamboat. No matter how he struggled, he always spoke about how the women in the same position as him needed more help. He believed that women with mental health issues needed more resources allocated toward them than he did. So Brosterhous believes that helping CAYA is a tribute to her brother and his beliefs.
“He always wanted to really support women,” Brosterhous said of her brother. “And he urged my mom and our family to support women, either homeless women or women suffering from mental illness or drug addiction.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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On Friday, the Soroco High School football team will take on the local Yampa and Oak Creek fire departments in a game of flag football.