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Eagle Riders Raising Awareness of Kid's Mental Health
Nebraska Ag Connection - 05/20/2020

Even a global pandemic can't stop volunteer motorcyclists from traveling across the state from May 20 through May 23 for the 13th annual Pony Express Ride, an effort to raise awareness about children's mental health. The ride will finish at the Nebraska State Capitol at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday with riders wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

The ride focuses on the message that mental health is fundamental to overall health -- a message shared by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The bikers, most of whom are members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and called Eagle Riders, will kick off their ride in Scottsbluff on May 20. During the ride, these dedicated riders will reenact the mail-delivery service of the storied Pony Express by picking up letters about children's mental health written by youth, their families and other supporters, which will be delivered to state employees at the State Capitol.

"For the past 13 years, we've been proud to have the Eagle Riders as a key partner in raising awareness for children's mental health," said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS. "Year after year, their advocacy helps us deliver the message that there is hope and there is help for those who need it. That's especially important given the challenges COVID-19 is presenting at this time."

The riders will begin their journey in Scottsbluff on Wednesday. On Thursday, the riders will make stops in Sidney to pick up children's letters, then head to Ogallala, North Platte, Gothenburg and Kearney. May 22 will take the riders to Grand Island, York, Columbus and Norfolk. The final day, May 23, the riders will wrap up the tour on the steps of the Nebraska State Capitol, where the letters will be delivered. While traditionally public events are held along the route, due to COVID-19 related social distancing and crowd size limits, public celebrations will not be held.

Stops (all times local to the city's time zone) include:

May 20

- 5:30 p.m., Scottsbluff -- Parade to raise awareness for children's mental health

May 21

- 9 a.m., Sidney: Family4Ward breakfast, 1805 Illinois St.; 9:30 am: Sidney Community Center/Kids Korner, 627 Toledo St.

- 11:10 a.m., Ogallala: Keith County CASA, 307 W. A St.

- 1:50 p.m., North Platte: 620 N. Chestnut

- 3:20 p.m., Gothenburg: Pony Express Station.

5 p.m.: Kearney: Buffalo County Fairgrounds, event with Families Care

May 22:

- 9 a.m., Grand Island: Platte River Harley Davidson, 2719 S. Locust St.

- 11 a.m., York: Wessels Living History Farm, 5520 S. Lincoln Ave.

- 1:25 p.m., Columbus: Youth For Christ, 2809 13th St.

- 3:35 p.m., Norfolk: Ta Ha Zouka Park, public event with Parent to Parent Network

May 23:

- 12:30 p.m.: Arrive at Nebraska State Capitol Building to deliver letters

DHHS provides many resources for families with behavioral health needs, including the Nebraska Family Helpline, a free, confidential resource for parents with questions or concerns about their child's behavior. The Helpline phone number is 1-888-866-8660.

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