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Tulsa cyclists ride cross country for loved ones lost to suicide

Tulsa cyclists ride to raise
Team Suicide Prevention jersey
Posted at 10:25 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 20:49:26-04

TULSA, Okla. — The mission to finish Race Across America 2021 started in Oceanside, California, but the mission to fulfill the name across Team Suicide Prevention's jerseys did not start Saturday and it will not end near the Atlantic.

"I just believe in my heart that as this spreads across, we’re going to be able to bring so much joy and so much love and healing across the nation," Mike Guillen said.

Guillen and his seven cyclist teammates are racing the 3,000 miles from California to Annapolis, Maryland. So far, the 8-person relay team has traversed triple-digit temperatures in the Arizona desert and climbed mountain tops in the Colorado Rockies. On Thursday, the cyclists made a pit stop in Missouri.

"We're just exhausted," Guillen said.

But no moment of fatigue will stop him from honoring his best friend and other lives lost to suicide.

One night, a few years ago, Guillen said he was riding down the road when he saw his friend Todd sitting on a nearby bench. He pulled over and sat down next to his buddy and noticed the pain painted all over his face.

"He was planning to take his life that night," Guillen said.

Guillen told his pal to call him any time he was having suicidal thoughts. A couple of years later, while home writing cards with his wife, Guillen's phone rang.

"I texted him back and said, 'Hey, man. I'm hanging out with my wife. Can I call you tomorrow?' And he just gave me a thumbs up," Guillen said.

But tomorrow never came for Todd. Guillen said Todd's wife called him the next day in a panic with no idea where her husband had gone.

"Come to find out he didn't make it," Guillen said. "I had a lot of guilt for a long time that I didn't answer that phone call."

It has taken him some time, but Guillen has come to realize he can answer another call - a call to share the loss of his friend with seven other cyclists struggling with the same pain. The call to spread suicide prevention with strangers from coast to coast and let those hiding that pain knows they're not alone.

"Somebody pours their heart out, when they see this they say, ‘Oh man I struggle with that’ or ‘Oh, I lost my sister’ and they continue to sign these jerseys we have with the names of all the lost ones.”

Guillen and his teammates are also starting "Hugs of Hope" to promote their cause. They are asking everyone to share twelve hugs a day around the country until 10 million hugs are reached.

Learn more about the cause on Team Suicide Prevention's website.

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