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Rollfast Foundation to Host Inaugural Roll Out of Darkness Banquet Benefitting Suicide Prevention

Writer: Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photos provided by Ron Wise & Rollfast Foundation

In 2012, Matt Tanner, a former web & graphic designer and avid cyclist, was ready to switch gears professionally so he, along with his wife Christine, created an organization called Rollfast. Originally conceived as a clothing company that made cycling t-shirts, it evolved into a group of cycling organizations. Eager to introduce younger riders to the sport, he began mentoring young kids, showing them the ropes of riding.

“I wanted to teach them how to be safe riders and good citizens,” Matt says. In 2013, Rollfast had their first Gran Fondo — the only one in Indiana.

“We wanted to do something different so we did an all-inclusive ride, and 350 people showed up,” Matt says.

People loved it, so the next year they amped it up by bringing in two former Tour de France retired pro cyclists, teammates of Lance Armstrong.

“It was incredible to have novice cyclists riding beside cyclists of that caliber,” Matt says. “For those who aren’t into cycling, it would be comparable to basketball enthusiasts getting to play a game of pick-up ball with LeBron James.”

Rollfast also introduced the Sub-4 Challenge where riders complete 100 miles in under four hours. Proceeds for all these events go towards the Rollfast Foundation. When the Tanners assembled the foundation, they realized that every board member shared a common connection. In 2009, Christine’s husband had died from suicide, and the other board members also had been affected, in some way, by suicide — either having endured the loss of a loved one to it or having made an attempt themselves.

Since lack of socialization is one of the reasons people feel hopeless enough to consider taking their own lives, the Tanners wanted to do something to address that.

“We’re not clinicians or doctors, but we understand the importance of physical activity in improving mental and physical health,” Christine says. “We want to make the subject less clinical and more conversational — especially for men who really have a hard time opening up.”

Sadly, Hamilton County has witnessed a 30 percent spike in suicide in the past year — particularly white males aged 35-64. So that’s the demographic the Tanners want to target. Those who participate in the Gran Fondo are primarily males, aged 45-65 so the demographics definitely overlap.

Thanks to a recent partnership with RemedyLIVE, the Rollfast Foundation now has the ability to run a call center that has 60 SoulMedic listeners on staff 24/7. Anyone feeling suicidal can text ROLL to 494949 and anonymously be connected to someone who will offer a compassionate ear and glimmer of hope.

Rollfast has plans to print and distribute 309,000 life-saving Action Cards all around Hamilton County. The cards have questions printed on them such as, “Are you okay? Do you need to talk?” as well as the number to text.

“We’re excited about it, but we need to continue our fundraising to be sure there’s enough capital there to sustain this effort,” Christine says.

One way they plan to do so is through their first Roll Out of Darkness Banquet to be held on October 11. Kevin Hines, who survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000, will share his story, WISH-TV’s Drew Blair will emcee and RemedyLIVE will provide a live survey session where attendees are invited to text in responses to questions like, “Who here owns a business and feels a big burden on your shoulders?” or “Who has gone through a divorce or is having marital difficulties?”

Responses are anonymous, so people can answer honestly. Then the survey results are shared on the screen for everyone to see.

“Eyes will open when they see they’re not alone in the world — that other people right in that very room share the same problems they’re facing,” Christine says. “Baby boomers are not equipped to talk about things like this, so this broaches the conversation.”

The Roll Out of Darkness Banquet will be held at the Wellington in Fishers on October 11 at 7 p.m. with cocktails being served at 6 p.m. Individual tickets are $100 or $2,500 per table. For more information, visit rollfastcycling.com.

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