The iconic Italian scooter may not be the obvious means to travel the length of New Zealand, but that isn’t deterring 13 blokes from giving it a crack as they support the work of the Mental Health Foundation on Vespas.
Organiser Perry Sansom says Motorally Aotearoa 2021 will require riders to sit in the saddle for more than 3,300 kilometres as they travel from Cape Reinga to Bluff between April 15 and April 25.
“We want to remind Kiwis that everyone – and we mean everyone – has their own state of mental health, with ups and downs, and that every so often some of us need a helping hand to get through.
“Undertaking a new challenge like the Motorally is one way to keep mental health in check and that’s why we’ll be taking to the road.
“I anticipate it’ll be the camaraderie that sees us through, as we encounter some long bumpy days on the road, and some chilly temperatures during our autumn descent south,” Sansom said.
The group has also been making strong progress towards fundraising over $200,000 for the Mental Health Foundation.
“Initially it was $100,000, but the support has been so great that we decided to nudge our target upwards,” he said.
Among the riders is Westpac NZ chief executive David McLean, who will be stopping in with the group at branches while on the ride.
“I use my Vespa most days around town in Auckland, but it’ll be a new experience taking it for such an extended run on the open road.
“We’re taking time to do something that we love and to connect with people, and that’s what mental health means to me. This is about reminding one another that our mental health matters, as much as, if not more than our physical health. It’s something we all need to think about, talk about, and work on.
“It won’t be an easy ride. Vespas are marvellous machines but designed for trips around Rome or Milan. Their urban suspension – and our backsides – will be tested out on the open road,” McLean said.
Westpac ambassadors Sir John Kirwan and Willie Apiata VC also jumped on Vespas to join in for a day – both of whom are active mental health advocates.
“Mental health is all about understanding how you’re feeling and putting on these helmets and being part of nature on the Vespa for the day has been amazing,” Kirwan said.
“For me, what these guys are doing to promote the fact that we all have mental health and getting on a bunch of Vespas to promote it has been such a cool thing.
“We need to make mental health part of our daily conversations and have a solid daily mental health plan just like we would for our fitness,” he said.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson says the Motorally Aotearoa riders epitomise the values of MHF fundraisers.
“They are committed to the cause, have set themselves goals and are driven to make change to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. I really admire the work they have put into the campaign to spread the word of positive wellbeing as well as having fun at the same time.
“These riders are demonstrating wellbeing in action. They’re taking time away from their usual routine to join together with a common goal that will no doubt present challenges, but together they will be supporting each other and learning about their own wellbeing while exploring Aotearoa,” Robinson said.