Four states. Three days. Two wheels. One mission. On June 15, Open Sky alumni parent Paul Webb is taking on Race Across the West, one of the country’s longest and most challenging cycling events. Starting in Oceanside, California, Paul will traverse 930 miles of some of the finest terrain the western United States offers to finish in Durango, Colorado. And he’s doing it all for wilderness therapy. Inspired by his own family’s experience at Open Sky, Paul is using this epic endeavor as a platform to raise money for Sky’s the Limit Fund, a nonprofit that provides youth in crisis and their families access to wilderness therapy programs.
Paul is no stranger to incredible feats of endurance or charitable giving. Originally a rock climber, he discovered his enthusiasm for cycling about ten years ago when he moved to Marin County in northern California.
“There are so many beautiful cycling routes around here that the running joke is if you don’t own a bike, somebody will lend you one,” said Paul. “I started riding with friends and just developed a passion for it.”
Paul signed up for his first century ride (100 miles) to raise support and fundraise for multiple sclerosis. The following year, his colleague Mark Gibson asked if he would like to compete in Race Across America. Together, the two friends put together a team of four people to take on the 3,000-mile challenge. Over the course of a week, they rode across the country to raise money for their accounting and consulting firm’s foundation, College MAP, which helps provide young, at-risk kids and teens with mentorships and scholarships.
“That was the bug,” said Paul. “After succeeding at that, I just got hooked.”
Paul’s family has personal experience with wilderness treatment, as it played a critical role in changing the life and path of his eldest child. This experience led Paul to shift his fundraising focus to benefit wilderness therapy programs.
“Wilderness really does make a difference. It was a significant steppingstone for my son,” said Paul. “It’s a path to change and transformation, and I want to do everything I can to enable families who don’t have the resources to be able to access places like Open Sky.”
Driven by this goal, last year Paul put together a team of four seasoned ultra-cyclists, each with their own story to tell around mental health, to compete in three major races across the western United States in support of Sky’s the Limit Fund. The team broke all three races’ course records for the over-50 age group and raised nearly $20,000 for Sky’s the Limit Fund.
“I think I’ve been successful with fundraising by being open and vulnerable around just how hard it is to deal with the mental health challenges that our kids are going through these days,” said Paul. “By doing so, I’ve been exposed to a lot of people who I had no idea were going through similar challenges or have gone through similar challenges with their own families. That connection inspires people to support the cause. People believe in wilderness. It’s needed, and it’s believed in.”
Paul’s previous fundraising and athletic successes have given him the confidence to focus this year’s endeavor on a solo event: Race Across the West. He’s quick to point out, though, that while he’s competing individually, the feat wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of his loved ones and community. Paul will have a crew of six people following him in a support vehicle, keeping him fed, hydrated, and safe as he rides through the desert, mountains, and starry nights.
“You can’t do this kind of challenge without the support of incredible people,” said Paul. “I think that’s the same for pretty much everything in life. Whether you’re riding your bike across four states or recovering from mental health challenges, it’s so essential to have a community of people around you.”
Paul hopes that anybody who follows his adventure this June will not only feel inspired to donate to Sky’s the Limit Fund but will also perhaps learn something about their own or a loved one’s journey with mental health and recovery.
“Ultra-cycling requires tenacity, resiliency, determination, and focus,” said Paul. “These are all important qualities when struggling with mental health. If you’re processing trauma or suffering from anxiety and depression, being able to keep going even when you want to quit is a key part of recovery.”
If you would like to support Paul’s mission and follow his journey this June, here’s how: