Pumped to pedal

Memorial fund bicycle donation welcomed at Merritt House


Bicycling is a good activity these days as it allows for being outside and social distancing. The four new adult bicycles and helmets recently donated to Merritt House allow residents to get outside, breathe fresh air and exercise. Photo by Kelly Grinsteinner.

Bicycling is a good activity these days as it allows for being outside and social distancing. The four new adult bicycles and helmets recently donated to Merritt House allow residents to get outside, breathe fresh air and exercise. Photo by Kelly Grinsteinner.

VIRGINIA – Mike strapped on a helmet, hopped on a bicycle and away he went. Taking off on a bike ride isn’t uncommon, but when residing at Range Mental Health Center’s (RMHC) Merritt House, such an opportunity wasn’t an opportunity until recently.

Four adult bicycles—two men’s and two women’s—and helmets were donated to Merritt House by the family of Wendy Senarighi in conjunction with the memorial fund named in her honor.

“We were excited and shocked when we received them,” said Monica Merhar, Merritt House treatment director, while also commenting on the quality of the bikes.

The facility owned a couple of bikes in the past, but they had deteriorated beyond use or had gone missing, she explained.

“This will be nice so they (residents) can go for rides around the lake,” Merhar noted. “It’s another thing to do outside, now that we’re getting outside of the house and things are starting to open up.”

Residents are allowed to sign out a bike for use during their personal time, depending on their progress in the intensive treatment program.

“They don’t tend to go too far, most likely around the lake and through town,” said Merhar.

One of Wendy’s family members read about Merritt House’s need for bicycles in an article in the April 24 edition of Hometown Focus and instantly thought of the fund, according to a family spokesperson.

Wendy passed away at age 59 from lung cancer in September 2016. She was a longtime RMHC employee and was especially fond of working at Merritt House. One of her favorite things to do was to take the residents on outings, engaging in activities such as bowling, attending a movie or grabbing pizza or ice cream.

The family established the memorial fund specifically and solely for those purposes and vowed to maintain a minimum fund balance if RMHC agreed to manage it.

Wendy’s son took on the task of purchasing the bicycles and lucked out by finding what he was looking for at Mesabi Recreation. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and current state of things, there is a national shortage of bicycles.

“Bikes are hard to get right now, and we weren’t certain we’d find them at Mesabi Recreation,” said the spokesperson. “But we did. Maybe Wendy had a hand in that.”

Having the opportunity to bike around town is a way of allowing residents to get outside the home, so there’s a natural tie into Wendy’s legacy.

“It’s something they can go do and get their endorphins going,” the spokesperson added. “It’s something they can do outside and not have to worry too much about the health risks.”

There’s no doubt the residents are pumped to pedal and that the bikes are already being broke in.

“Staff is excited for about them too,” said Merhar. “There will be lots of mileage over the summer.”

To support Merritt Housed outings and activities, contributions can be sent to RMHC-Wendy Senarighi Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1188, Virginia, MN 55792.

Kelly Grinsteinner lives in Hibbing, MN. She is the communications and marketing specialist for Range Mental Health Center. She can be reached at kgrinsteinner@rangementalhealth.org.

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