ORLANDO, Fla. - Thousands of men are currently suffering in silence from mental health issues and other problems that affect their well-being and a group of Orlando motorcyclists wants to help change that stigma.
"The message we want to get across is: It's OK to not be OK. It's OK to cry. It's OK to say, 'Hey, Micah man, I'm feeling down, I don't know what to do,'" Jason Vogel said.
On Sept. 30, Vogel will lead the Euro Cycles of Central Orlando group of bikers as they participate in the annual Distinguished Gentleman's Ride global event to raise funds for the Movember Foundation, an organization that raises awareness about issues that affect men.
"Even though people may seem nice every day, walk up, say, 'Hi,' bring you a cup of coffee. When they go home, they may not feel this way," said Micah Dawkins-Williams, who will be riding in the event for the first time this year.
For both Dawkins-Williams and Vogel, it's a cause that hits close to home. Dawkins-Williams is doing it for his grandfather, who died from prostate cancer. He's also seen family members and friends struggle from depression in his New Jersey hometown.
"I've had two friends commit suicide. I've been back for funerals and it's been hard to see that happen," Dawkins-Williams said.
Vogel also lost close friends to suicide and his father-in-law is a prostate cancer survivor.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, more than 29,000 men will die of prostate cancer and more than 164,000 new cases will be reported.
Vogel said the event is an opportunity "to get out there and do something positive."
Going into its sixth year, the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride gathers bikers from all walks of life. The money raised will go toward men's mental and health prevention programs.
The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride expects to see more than 600 rides worldwide with its unique touch, organizers said.
"When people think bikers, you're thinking leather, you're thinking a different thing. The one thing with the ride is: You have to wear something nice. So, it's a suit. You can wear a vest, long sleeve shirt," Vogel said.
"I ride everyday and I would never think to ride around in a suit ... I rode here this morning in this suit and it was pretty hot," Dawkins-Williams said.
The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride started in 2012 in Australia. The founder was inspired by "Mad Men" actor, Jon Ham, after he saw Ham suited up and looking dapper on his motorcycle. What started out as a way of changing the typical biker image went on to become an opportunity for a good cause.
On Sunday, almost 200 men and women will gather at Ace Café and head out on a 30-mile ride around Orlando. They will end at Standard Motorcycles Co.
Organizers originally planned to begin the event at 9 a.m., but said Friday that the start time for the event was changed to 11:30 a.m. Riders will meet at Ace Cafe for lunch and entertainment before the ride, which begins at 1:30 p.m.
For more information about making a donation to the Movember Foundation or to participate in the event, visit the events section at eurocyclesoforlando.com.
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