CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — After a 3,762-mile cross-country bike trip intended to raise awareness and money for suicide prevention, two friends are back and ready to talk about their trek.
A welcome home celebration for Mike Mariani, 18, of Spofford, and Devin McLaughlin, 18, of Chesterfield, is planned for 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Chesterfield Fire Department. The event is open to the public.
“We’re going to talk a little bit about suicide prevention and our journey, and what we took away from our journey, and just thank the community for supporting us so much,” Mariani said. “There’s going to be cupcakes and stuff like that.”
In 2018, Mariani’s brother, Nathan, died by suicide at the age of 16. With the bike ride, Mariani and McLaughlin wanted to honor Nathan and share his story.
“We met so many people who were also struggling with suicide or lost a loved one,” Mariani said. “It was really impactful to see just how many people are affected by it.”
Mariani said the pair started July 19 in Yorktown, Va., and spent 95 days on the road. They traveled through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nevada and California, posting regularly on their Instagram page called Pedaling for Prevention 2020.
Their last stop was at the Golden Gate Bridge, where they were met by their families.
“It was amazing,” Mariani said. “It felt like it was just a dream.”
Carmen Trafton also flew out to California to celebrate the trip’s end. She helped support the effort, which raised about $25,000 for local suicide-prevention group The Samaritans of Keene for which she serves as executive director.
Mariani and McLaughlin received a proclamation from Keene City Mayor George Hansel during the City Council’s Nov. 4 meeting, and they were named Granite Staters of the Month by Sen. Maggie Hassan in late September.
“Keene is littered with double-sided yard signs celebrating their tremendous efforts,” Trafton said. “They’re beautiful.”
In a post on medium.com, Hassan wrote, “After a heartbreaking loss that reverberated through an entire community, Mike and Devin decided to make a positive impact by spreading a message of resilience and hope, all the while educating others about suicide prevention and the importance of reaching out for help.”
Mariani and McLaughlin both graduated from Keene High School last year. The pair attempted the cross-country trip last summer, but McLaughlin suffered a knee injury that caused them to prematurely end their ride.
Mariani said McLaughlin worried the injury could affect this year’s ride.
“We took it slow and steady, and it worked out,” Mariani said.
Now, Mariani is considering turning Pedaling for Prevention into what he calls “a real organization.”
“I just want to help anyone I can with suicide prevention,” he said.