Allen Giese founded the Florida-based nonprofit Ride to Awareness on the strength of his son's illness. Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic condition that combines symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, with symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania and depression. Giese has been working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America to set up awareness events in eight major cities along the route across the southern U.S.
Giese said mental illness is a very misunderstood condition.
"Until my family was personally affected, I certainly didn't understand it," Giese said. "That's why this ride is so important. It's not only to raise funds, which are desperately needed, but more importantly to raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with having a mental illness, because it's the stigma that keeps many from seeking treatment.”
He said the riders dipped their wheels into the water at Ocean Beach before launching their journey. They'll be supported by two people in a donated, custom-wrapped, 34-foot-long motor home.