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Mississippi bike ride for mental health passing through Brainerd

Tom's Big Ride for mental health awareness is back in Minnesota from the Gulf of Mexico and will reach Brainerd on Aug. 11 and Bemidji and Lake Itasca on Aug 13.

Tom Mork, a middle-aged banker from Lakeville, is nearing the finish of a 2,100 mile bike journey which began July 6, following the Mississippi River northward to its source at Lake Itasca. Three other riders have made the entire journey, known as Tom's Big Ride, and another 15 or more have joined them for one or more stages of the trip.

Along the journey, Tom Mork has been speaking to a variety of groups and individuals and giving interviews for the media. As a parent who struggled with his daughter's bipolar diagnosis several years ago, Tom has a story to tell which includes "ignorance, despair, bewilderment, humor, and yes ... hope."

Tom's Big Ride has reportedly surpassed its goal of raising $100,000 for NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and has set a new goal $125,000 by the time the ride ends on Aug. 13. NAMI Minnesota provides more than 300 free classes each year, over 60 ongoing support groups, and advocacy for children and adults with mental illnesses and their families.

On Aug. 11, the riders will leave St. Cloud and pass through Little Falls on to Brainerd, where they will stay overnight.

On Aug. 12, they will take the Paul Bunyan Trail and go through the towns of Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Pine River, and Backus to Walker on Leech Lake.

On Aug. 13, the final day of the trip, Tom's Big Ride will complete the Paul Bunyan Trail into Bemidji and then backtrack for 29 miles to Itasca State Park and the Headwaters of the Mississippi.