Press Releases

A Brother's Odyssey: Bicyclist Raises Awareness Of Mental Illness

3,500 Mile "Cycle Across America" Ends Today In Florence, Oregon

Aug 13 1999

Arlington, VA - Between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. (PDT) today, on a beach along the Oregon Coast, Brian Kaplan will finish an odyssey that began in June and has promoted a cause dear to his heart: support for families who cope with the challenges of severe mental illnesses.

"Brian's love, dedication and courage are much like those of all NAMI's family members," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. "We are greatly honored by his achievement."

Brian's ride began on Rehoboth Beach, Delaware the week after the first White House Conference on Mental Health. It took him 3,500 miles across the Midwest, Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest. His wife, Joan, accompanied him, traveling the route in a recreational vehicle stocked with literature to distribute and telephone numbers of local media. 

They met with Senators in Washington, D.C. In Chicago, they attended NAMI's national 20th Anniversary Convention. And in Elgin, Illinois, they visited Brian's older brother, Jay, who suffers from schizophrenia and currently resides in a state mental hospital. An Atlanta environmental scientist by profession, Brian, who also turned 40 on the ride, sought to raise public awareness of brain disorders and the special role that NAMI has played in helping him to deal with the "never-ending rollercoaster" of his brother's illness. In addition to raising awareness of mental illness, Brian's ride raised more than $22,000 for NAMI. Peachtree Settlement Funding sponsored the ride with a gift of $10,000. Support also came from Joan's coworkers, her employer, and family and friends.

Describing his first NAMI Georgia support group meeting, Brian told one interviewer: "I went to NAMI to find out how to help Jay. I became aware that my family was not the only family dealing with the problem. I heard stories from eight to ten families who had gone through similar experiences. More important, I got advice on how to deal with it. I only wish it hadn't taken me so long to find them."