MORE than 1000 motorbikes will converge on Albion Park Showground on Sunday, August 10, before setting off across the Illawarra to raise awareness and funds for mental health issues.
Now in its seventh year, the annual Mental Health Awareness Ride has helped break down the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. It was founded by Albion Park's Don Dummett, who said he witnesses the ride's benefits every year.
"The main thing the ride aims to do is raise awareness about mental health issues, awareness about what they are, how they affect people and what's out there to help people," he said.
"On the day, you get all these people coming together and throughout the day you'll see people rubbing shoulders with each other and in a lot of cases they'll end up opening up to each other and talking about something they might have kept inside otherwise and that can often be the first step to them getting some help."
The ride also has positive impact for Mr Dummett, who founded the event after watching his father battle mental illness.
"It's a great feeling - for me it's my therapy, my medicine.
"To see so many people come out and either participate in the ride or volunteer to help out on the day is a great sight."
While the increase in participants over the years has been welcomed, it has also posed some challenges for organisers.
"The first year we did the ride I was hoping for 50 bikes and we got 163 and it's just kept going up from there. Last year we had more than 1000 and raised over $35,000 and I'm expecting more than that this year," Mr Dummett said.
"For a little while there it did sort of start to get a bit much and I thought about not doing it this year, but then a mate mentioned a group called Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention and Awareness Network and I got in touch with them.
"They've been a great help in organising the day and it's been a lot easier with their help - and the money we raise in the day will support them."
The ride starts at Albion Park Showground at 9.30am on August 10, and heads to North Nowra before finishing at Jamberoo for a family fun day.
Cost is $20 a motorbike, payable on the day from 8am on-site.