Tom Mork of Lakeville and his three compatriots, including Lakeville City Council Member Doug Anderson, are 13 days and 710 miles into Tom's Big Ride, a 2,100 bike ride north along the Mississippi River, from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota.
The men's goal is to raise awareness to help erase the stigma of mental illness and to raise money for the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
"We actually surpassed our $100,000 goal last week and decided to bump the goal up to $125,000," Mork said Thursday from Memphis, where the men and their support team (Mork's wife and his father-in-law) were taking a two-day break.
Mork, who is president of Lakeview Bank in Lakeville, said the ride so far has been almost problem-free, with no medical problems other than some chafing from the bike seats and the usual fatigue and stiffness after a day's ride. There were two flat tires, which were quickly fixed, and a broken pedal that was swapped out.
The hardest part is biking 70 to 100 miles a day with heat indexes in the 100- to 110-degree range, Mork said. Their team keeps them well hydrated.
Both Mork and Anderson know firsthand the pain mental illness can bring to families.
Anderson's catalyst for the ride is his sister, Donna Burns Anderson, who was a successful OB-GYN before she became paranoid and delusional. She stabbed her 13-year-old son to death in 2002.
Anderson has reconciled with his sister and visits her in prison at least once a year.
For Mork, it was his daughter Christine, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after years of anger and dangerous decisions. She is on medication and doing well.
Mork said Thursday that it has been truly inspirational for the riders to share their stories with people they've encountered. "The message resonates with so many people," he said.
There's been time for sightseeing, too. The group planned to visit Graceland on Friday.
The four will climb back on their bikes Saturday for a six-day leg to St. Louis. The ride will conclude Aug. 13. People can follow along at www.tomsbigride.org.