Updated: Bike ride to help children facing mental illness

There is a resource center that helps families in need who are struggling with mental health issues of their children. This weekend there will be a bike ride to help the organization.

“We estimate that 60% of the children seen in our outpatient clinic suffer from the effects of a trauma or numerous traumas they have experienced in their lives,” said Michael Wynne, chief executive officer of the Lower Naugatuck Valley Parent Child Resource Center (PCRC). “Surely, most are not as dramatic as Newtown but significant enough to have negative consequences on their lives. We hope tragedies like Newtown raise a lasting awareness of the seriousness of mental health issues and the importance of providing resources in the community to help children recover from trauma. We hope our programs and our networking in the community help raise awareness.”

PCRC, located in Derby, serves Shelton, Ansonia, Seymour, Oxford, and Southbury. The center focuses on other health issues, such as childhood obesity, in addition to mental, behavioral and emotional disorders in children.

On Sunday, May 19, the second annual Pedal for PCRC will kick off at the PerkinElmer campus on Bridgeport Avenue. Its goal is to raise both funds and awareness.

“Many of our programs are aimed at prevention and early intervention,” said Wynne. “We provide consultation to early childhood centers and local school systems. We work with their staff to improve their ability to recognize and know what to do with and for children with early signs of behavioral and emotional problems. We provide parenting groups in the community — Positive Parenting Program, also known as Triple P — and several of our programs are aimed at helping parents provide more nurturing environments, know better how to handle problem behaviors and when to seek professional help.”

About the ride

Co-chairs Germaint Phillips, vice president at PerkinElmer, and Jim Urso are credited with putting together this year’s event.

“As parents, we all want our children to be healthy in every aspect of their lives, and PCRC does an outstanding job supporting children and families in the Lower Naugatuck Valley develop their fullest potential,” said Phillips. “By nature of the issue, childhood mental health does not get the level of visibility and support as other childhood health topics, but we are only too aware of the devastating outcomes that may result if disorders are not properly diagnosed and treated. I believe that by supporting the PCRC we are making a direct and positive contribution to the health and well-being of our community.”

As an avid cyclist, Phillips was delighted to be part of the inaugural Pedal for PCRC. Along with Krista Mac Gregor, director of development and community relations for PCRC, Phillips and the entire steering committee spent a year organizing the event.

Mac Gregor said they chose to host a bike ride because, at the time, there weren’t any other fund-raisers like this in the Valley. Urso was responsible for designing the bike routes.

Registered cyclists may choose to take a 15-, 30-, or 62-mile course that travels through towns served by the organization.

Although the Valley has a lot of hills, Phillips said, Urso incorporated a good number of these roadways into the 62-mile course. Phillips was one of five participants last year who opted for the longest and most challenging 62-mile route.

“Despite the demanding route, it was still very enjoyable to take in the beautiful scenery as well as the support we received along the way and at the finish line,” Phillips said. “Fortunately, for the recreational rider, the 15- and 30-mile routes provide a good challenge and great workout, too.”

Mac Gregor said some cyclists finished the 62-mile course in only three and a half hours.

Registrants are required to raise $250. Online donations are accepted, and community members are also encouraged to sponsor a specific rider.

Although last year’s Pedal for PCRC was held in July, when more than 60 volunteers raised $18,000, Mac Gregor said the committee decided to switch the date to May to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month.

“It was a great success last year, and we hope that this year’s Pedal for PCRC will be even better,” Mac Gregor said.

Cyclists’ spouses and children are invited to stay in the PerkinElmer parking lot, where the ride begins, and ride their bicycles. Breakfast will be served by Martha Dulla, of Grassy Hill Lodge.

“We are also having a huge after-party barbecue which is provided by David Grant Caterers and Southport Brewing Co.,” Mac Gregor said.

Lead sponsors are PerkinElmer, the Ned Miller Agency and Fletcher Thompson.

For more information about Pedal for PCRC, go to Invpcrc.org. Online registration may be completed at pedalforpcrc.kintera.org.

More about PCRC

Children from birth to 17 are treated at PCRC.

“If a family cannot afford treatment, we won’t turn them away,” said Mac Gregor.

PCRC’s programs include training in relationships and emotional competency for children, which is an intense outpatient program (IOP). Children ages 6 to 17 who have serious emotional, behavioral and social disturbances meet daily in group therapy sessions. They are taught skills that will allow them to have stronger relationships at school and within their families. They also learn problem solving skills, relaxation techniques and how their emotions and actions are connected.

PCRC also offers preventative services, such as the Positive Parenting Program.

“We work closely with preschools in the Valley, too,” Mac Gregor said. “We frequently make referrals and work with families so that their children receive the care they need.”