Trumbull native aims to break mental health stigma through cycling
Like many students, Trumbull native John Sullivan will pack up and head back to school this summer. Unusually, though, Sullivan’s back-to-school trip will take him from Seattle to Connecticut. On a bicycle.
Sullivan and a handful of other students from the UConn medical and dental schools will make a 3,800-mile ride across the country to raise money for the non-profit agency Mental Health Connecticut.
“Every year for the past 13 years, a UConn school group has made a cross-country bike trip to raise money for charity,” Sullivan said. “I heard about it in the beginning of the year and it sounded like the coolest thing in the world.”
The group’s consensus was that this year they would raise money for mental health, an issue that has been in the news recently, and also one that affects many people in the state.
“We bounced some ideas off each other, and the thought we had was that we wanted something that was prominent, and also local,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan is a 2011 graduate of Trumbull High School and graduated from Fairfield University in 2015 before taking two years off to work as a medical assistant and take a few classes. He enrolled at UConn’s medical school last year.
The bicycle trek itself presents a physical challenge, he said. Sullivan, who has completed several triathlons, said the riders will carry camping gear on their bikes.
“We plan to follow the northern bike route across the country, covering about 50 to 100 miles a day,” he said. “We’ll leave Seattle June 2 and it will probably take about eight weeks to reach Connecticut.”
In addition to the daily grind of riding and camping, the group will make stops at some towns, national parks and other attractions along the way.
The group also is more than halfway to its $20,000 fund-raising goal, having received $11,142 in donations with a week to go before the trip starts. The riders’ fund-raising progress may be tracked at mhconn.org/uconn. Sullivan’s blog posts during the trip will be posted to https://uconnc2c.blogspot.com/.
“Mental health is something that pervades all of our lives, and the ride itself in a way is pretty symbolic,” he said. “It’s a daily challenge, there are hills and valleys. Our goal is to help raise awareness and break the stigma associated with mental health.”