This Labor Day weekend, my ride partner and co-conspirator, Tom Harris and I embark from Fort Clatsop, Oregon and start riding our bikes east following the route of the Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery expedition for nine weeks. Our final destination is Washington D.C. on Veterans Day, 11/11/17.
Our mission is the eradication of suicide. We are riding to benefit the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation. I had the privilege of watching Jordan Harris grow up. I went to her bat mitzvah, had her work in my office in the summers in high school, wrote her college recommendations, followed her adventures at the University of Michigan and was waiting to see what her next extraordinary accomplishment would be after graduation. Instead, I went to her funeral.
Unfortunately, it was not my last. Twenty months later I was surrounded by another family and a tribe of twenty year olds trying to make sense of why their friend, Senior Class President, Captain of my twin son’s football team and frequent couch surfer at my house, Andrew Pillow, had taken his own life. Up until the deaths of Jordan and Andrew I had no direct connection to suicide. I understood depression far too well, but hadn’t experienced the impact of a suicide on a community. It is far more common than I had ever realized. Because nobody wants to talk about it, few of us are aware of its impact until it touches us directly.
The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation was established in grief and has evolved into a force for good in the North Texas community and around the country. The tag line of the Foundation is “Bring the Conversation to Light”. That is what we are going to be doing for about 3,700 miles. Last fall I did a reconnaissance trip to drive the route we will be biking. Every stop I made along the route people would ask why I was in their town. I would tell them and the stories would start flowing. Brothers, sisters, parents, kids, family and friends. They all had a story.