Bicycle enthusiasts are gearing up for the fourth annual Sky Island Tour on Oct. 5.

Sponsored by NAMI Southeastern Arizona with support from Cochise Bicycle Advocates and the City of Sierra Vista, the event showcases Southern Cochise County while benefiting NAMI SEAZ, the region’s local National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter.

Around 230 cyclists participated in last year’s tour, with organizers saying they are on track for a much larger group this year.

“Based on our registration from this time last year, we’re well ahead,” said Pam Hunter, who sits on the NAMI SEAZ board of directors and is a two-year Cochise Bicycle Advocates member.

“All of the NAMI board members truly believe in the wonderful work our local chapter does for the community and surrounding areas,” Hunter said. “Along with Cochise, our chapter covers Graham, Greenlee and Santa Cruz counties, so we reach a lot of people. NAMI advocates for those with mental illness and provides education and a list of free services.”

The Sky Island Tour is one of two primary fundraisers for NAMI SEAZ, with the other being the organization’s annual March for Mental Health.

Stu Carter, president of Cochise Bicycle Advocates, is one of the tour’s organizers.

“We are anticipating around 400 riders this year,” he said. “About 45 percent of those are from outside of Sierra Vista, and we expect about 50 percent of those who have registered are signed up for the 62-mile course,” he said.

Organizers will be setting up registration in the Windemere Hotel and Conference Center on Oct. 4 in the main ballroom, Carter said.

“People can pick up their registration packets between 5:30 and 8:30 Friday night (Oct. 4) and are invited to stay for the pasta dinner at the Windemere,” Carter said. “A good number of the people who have signed up are doing the longer distances — the 62 and 44-mile rides — which is great to see,” Carter said.

On the morning of the ride, cyclists will be leaving the Windemere at staggered times, 30 minutes apart, starting with the 62-mile group at 7 a.m.

“The 44-mile riders will leave at 7:30, the 30-milers at 8, the 20-mile riders at 8:30 and the final group, the five-mile riders will leave at 9,” Carter said.

NAMI SEAZ Board President Livingston Sutro praised the community participants for supporting the event.

“The Sky Island Tour provides major input for our local NAMI chapter,” he said. “All the money we raise goes toward supporting our free services in the four counties we serve. We couldn’t continue providing these services without the funding and support we receive from everyone.”

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