A group of Iron Horse Bicycle Classic riders will don tutus Saturday in memory of Tricia Shadell, a Durango mountain bike coach who died by suicide in November.
The Durango DEVO and Every Pedal Mountain Bike coach was known for wearing tutus on rides for fun and to remind everyone around her that cycling is fun, DEVO founder Sarah Tescher said.
Tescher and nine other riders hope to raise $10,000 for the Grief Center of Southwest Colorado. The group set up an online campaign for the ride, and each person is aiming to raise $1,000.
Tescher and her son plan to pass out 20 tutus the morning of the ride to anyone interested in supporting the memorial ride.
Durango High School student Abbey Shepard, 15, who will be among those on the ride, knew Shadell as a coach and mentor.
“She made everything fun. If it was a bad day or a rainy day, she would find a way to make it just better,” Shepard said.
If a rider crashed, Shadell would restore confidence by telling the young cyclist he or she was tough for taking the fall, Shepard recalled.
Shepard said she knows five people who have died by suicide, but she was close to Shadell and two others.
“I didn’t and still do not understand why someone so gracious could get that sad to where they decide to end their own life. I was and still am confused, sad and angry,” Shepard wrote in an email to friends and family about the online fundraiser. The email was later shared with the Herald. She described Saturday’s ride as a way to “help to stop these horrible events from happening to more people and families.”
Shepard had friends and family who lent support after Shadell’s death, but she hopes the fundraiser for the Grief Center of Southwest Colorado will ensure young people have somewhere to go if they don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents. The Grief Center offers services regardless of a client’s ability to pay.
After Shadell’s death, Tescher organized one evening ride for DEVO and Every Pedal cyclists to ride together and meet with a grief counselor to help them process her death.
Since then, she learned about the Grief Center, which offers counseling to bereaved members of the community.
“This local nonprofit is invaluable to our community that has seen so much loss,” Tescher said.
She said raising money for the center and awareness about its services was an appropriate way to honor Shadell, who wouldn’t want anyone to suffer.
“This is something that, hopefully, will benefit other people dealing with loss later on,” Tescher said.
The Grief Center of Southwest Colorado has seen demand for its services grow exponentially in the last three years, said Director Judy Austin.
Demand for counseling is likely being driven by an increase in traumatic losses in the community, such as suicides, homicides and car crashes.
In addition to providing services by appointment, bereavement specialists with the center also respond to crisis situations, such as the school shooting in Aztec to help students process the trauma, she said.
Teens who have experienced a loss of any kind are three times more likely to die by suicide, Austin said.
“I really do believe that good grief therapy can be part of (suicide) prevention,” she said.
Unresolved grief can also increase the rate of depression and anxiety in general, she said.
“It can really embed itself in the psyche of a person,” Austin said.
The immediate response to a traumatic event can be crucial in helping people process traumatic loss, she said. But grief can continue for years, and it’s important that those grieving learn how to live with loss, she said.
All the money raised by the riders will go to serve bereaved members of the community, she said.
During Saturday’s ride, Shepard suspects tutu-clad riders will draw smiles and cheers from spectators and fellow riders.