Scott Hall of Baxter isn't a bicycling enthusiast, but the Army veteran who plans to pedal three consecutive days in the Habitat 500 bicycling fundraiser has been in tougher spots before.

The Army Reservist thought he left the battlefield in Afghanistan behind him. The 40-year-old husband and father has battled post-traumatic stress disorder ever since his tour of duty ended.

"This last year, I've spoken out about veterans suicide, mental health, PTSD, anxiety and stuff like that and being a champion for other people to seek help if they need it," said Hall, who credits a special Brainerd Dispatch Veterans Day article about him for him assisting others.

Hall is the manager of the Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Brainerd. He will ride a bicycle July 14-16, and his coworker Jess Walters will ride July 17-19, for a total of 500 miles. They are looking for sponsors to help them raise money to build a home for a Deerwood veteran.

"We are short on funding, so I thought that it would be a good challenge for myself, and Jess joined in with me, to do the Habitat 500, which is put on by Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota down in the Twin Cities," Hall said.

Habitat 500

Now entering its 27th year, the Habitat 500 is a bicycle ride and fundraiser that covers up to 500 miles over the course of six days. Each rider raises funds from family, friends, businesses and church groups, and designates the Habitat for Humanity affiliates they wish to support.

"Another big challenge is that I'm not a biker," Hall said of the proposed route through Hermantown, Hibbing and Aurora near Duluth. "I'm borrowing this bike from somebody that has done a bike trip like this."

The Habitat 500 participant has three options: full week, three-day and one-day. Each full week and three-day rider like Hall and Walters is required to raise a minimum of $500, but the average amount raised is more than $2,300 per rider, according to officials.

"Our goal is to raise $10,000, and we have a matching gift of $10,000 for an end goal of $20,000. We're at $4,220 so far," Hall said Friday. "The cool thing is the donor of the matching $10,000 emailed me, and he and his wife have decided that they want to give the full $10,000."

Hall and Walters expect to each ride a bicycle more than 80 miles a day visiting Habitat affiliates, Habitat work sites and Habitat homeowners along the way. Habitat affiliates serve as the bicyclists' local hosts for overnight stays.

"I have been training and it's going well," Hall said. "I started May 15 with my training and have been going out a couple of nights a week-15, 18 miles-the longest I've done so far is 21 miles, so right now in total, I've probably put on-I don't know-about 180 miles."

Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity began construction Monday, June 10, of a two-bedroom, one-bathroom single-story 938-square-foot home at 1007 Ninth Ave. NE in northeast Brainerd.

For more than a quarter of a century, Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers have built 110 homes in Cass, Crow Wing and Hubbard counties, and the city of Staples, according to officials.

"We're both actively out there asking for sponsorships from donors, individuals, companies. ... So let's say a business wants to sponsor us, they can actually come out and do a build on the house for a day, a team-building deal," Hall said of the Deerwood home for the Peterson family.

Dennis Peterson Jr. was the manager of the Deerwood-based Salem West, the stated mission of which is to help families and individuals by providing new or gently used items to help fulfill basic needs.

"The cool thing is that the house is going to be built on the former location where Salem West was, and he's a veteran-during (Operation) Desert Storm, Gulf War period-and he also serves on the Ironton Fire Department, I believe, and the Ironton Color Guard," Hall said.

Hall was part of the 367th Engineer Battalion, which provided support to combat units through food service, supply, maintenance, personnel and a construction platoon. Hall was in Afghanistan from May 2004 until May 2005 and started at ReStore in July 2005.

ReStore veterans

ReStore is a home improvement store that sells new and used furniture, appliances and building supplies at a fraction of the retail price. All proceeds support Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity's work building homes for local families.

The reservists based in Brainerd joined other troops in Operation Enduring Freedom in the Middle East. They were deployed in February 2004. About 129 soldiers from five states left Brainerd in the deployment.

"Jess comes from a military family, too," Hall said. "One of her brothers is in the military. Her dad was in the military, and I have a family that was in the military."

The 367th Engineer Battalion was the largest Army Reserve unit to mobilize since Operation Desert Shield in 1990. They were the single largest Army Reserve unit in Minnesota to mobilize in support of operations Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom.

Hall admitted he needed help dealing with his time in Afghanistan and entered the Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program for PTSD in St. Cloud for their 45-day recovery program.

"A lot of people have come into ReStore ... and tell me it took a lot of courage to bare all or be open with people about my struggles with PTSD and anxiety, and a lot of people who shop here every day or every week ... had no idea I was struggling so much," Hall said.

June is PTSD Awareness Month. During the month, people are encouraged to help raise awareness about the many different PTSD treatment options and to make a difference in the lives of veterans and others who have experienced trauma.

There are about 8 million people in the United States with PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and even though PTSD treatments work, most people who have PTSD do not get the help they need, officials say.

To make a donation

Mail checks to Habitat for Humanity, P.O. Box 234, Brainerd, MN 56401. Write "Habitat 500" in memo section.