Cycle for Hope will bike over
1600 miles for Mental Health
WHY WE RIDE: We have partnered to ride across Europe with a select team called “Wellness Wheels” as a part of Cycle for Hope. Our team includes 3 licensed mental health providers and a former professional baseball player who all share a common goal, making a difference through providing awareness and access to mental health care. Our team will be cycling 1603.14 miles starting in Dublin, Ireland, traveling through eight countries and finally ending in Copenhagen, Denmark. We will be documenting the journey along the way to raise awareness and the funds necessary to provide a cycle of hope for those struggling with their mental health and wellness. This endurance cycling event begins in May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, and continues through the end of June 2024. By sponsoring this ride, you will play a critical role in providing the people of greater Houston with life-saving resources through supporting our effort to effectively raise funds for those who have limited resources and / or access and therefore most in need of mental health counseling and related services. “If you can help get us to Dublin, we’ll do the leg work!”
Meet the team:
Photo credit: Dena Rafte
Josephine (Josie) Paul is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist – Supervisor. She began the Counseling and Wellness Program at Xavier Academy, Houston, Texas in 2013. Josie continued to expand this school therapy program including four additional therapists while offering a wide range of mental health services to students, staff, and their families.
Josie holds a bachelor’s degree in vocational education, specifically food and beverage preparation, with an emphasis on students with disabilities and a Master of Arts degree in marriage and family therapy with a concentration in play therapy. Josie’s background spans a diverse range of disciplines that include working as a European trained pastry chef and culinary arts instructor in the Napa Valley and San Francisco for more than 30 years before becoming a therapist.
Josie is currently a PhD student in social health sciences at Vrije Universiteit Medical School, Brussels, Belgium and in partnership with the Taos Institute. Her doctoral research “Kitchen Conversations” examines the benefits of culinary therapy in the school setting for adolescents who are struggling with anxiety. Josie is in a exceptional position to study culinary therapy as a professional pastry chef, credentialed teacher (in California and Texas), and a psychotherapist, which gives her an unique perspective. She looks forward to the completion of her doctoral studies and successful defense in the Spring of 2024.
Athletics and physical fitness have always been a significant part of Josie’s life earning her 3 presidential physical fitness awards during high school. She also participated on her high school’s varsity volleyball and softball teams and a member of the varsity cross country and track teams as well. Josie continued playing volleyball while in college and recounts running the Bay to Breakers Marathon in San Francisco as a favorite experience. Exercise and physical fitness were important early on in Josie’s life and provided much enjoyment but also served as a necessary outlet for her emotional stressors. Josie’s life health goal can be best summed up by Roman poet Junenal, who wrote in Latin, “Mens sana in corpore sano,” which is usually translated as “a sound mind in a sound body.”
Josie enjoyed personal success in her previous careers but recognized that there always seemed to be something lacking. Later in life, she discovered the missing piece, and she made the decision that she no longer wanted to work only to make a living but wanted to work to make a difference. Josie is now working on making mental health care available for those who previously have not had access.
Janella Chu is a Licensed Psychological Associate who works at Xavier Educational Academy as both a therapist and a high school mathematics teacher. Janella has experience with various therapy modalities and a wide range of clients that spans from working in inpatient residential clinics to community mental health centers. Janella has been teaching high school mathematics, specifically College Algebra and Algebra 1, for almost 2 years at Xavier.
Janella received a master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in Health from the University of Houston-Main. Throughout her academic work, Janella worked as a research assistant for the Emotions in Marriage lab at UH Main which focused on researching domestic violence within couples. She became a research coordinator for a study that researched the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the rates of domestic violence across the entire United States through daily diary submissions. In addition, she is also a second author for a book chapter which discussed the history of domestic violence research, available interventions for victims and perpetrators, and the impact of domestic violence on individuals as well as families and children.
Throughout her childhood, Janella was always involved in various sports ranging from gymnastics to karate but focused on tennis since the age of 8. In high school, she was part of the varsity tennis team and competed in various competitions in addition to participating in marching band for her entire high school career. In the beginning, sports were just another activity that enabled her to spend time with her friends; as she grew older, it morphed into something more personal in her mental health journey. During this time, Janella struggled heavily with the transition from moving from New Jersey to Texas. Sports became her refuge; it became the constant that kept her grounded and motivated her to work hard on the goals she had for her life.
Today, Janella still plays tennis on occasion and has picked up other sports such as rock climbing and, more recently, cycling to keep healthy, both mentally and physically. She views health as all encompassing; the body and mind are intertwined, and both are important to the well-being of an individual.
Florence Bhatia was an attorney in Australia for 14 years before coming to the U.S. During her career as an attorney, Florence became the head of the Commercial /Litigation section of the Legal Branch of the Maritime Services Board in Sydney. Florence also worked for the prestigious Brisbane law firm Hawthorn, Cuppaidge and Badgery. She later founded her own legal practice and gained further specialization as a Family Law Mediator.
Upon arriving in the U.S., Florence chose to be a stay- at -home mom while her children were small. Later, Florence earned her Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This change in career was in part the result of having worked alongside counseling mediators in Australia and seeing their powerful work. It also reflects her wish to give back to society in a meaningful way.
Florence is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and is currently furthering her studies to become certified in Neurofeedback as well. She currently is working at Xavier Academy and the Houston Galveston Institute (HGI) . She has previously interned at HGI and the Fort Bend Women’s Center where she later volunteered.
Florence says that Counselors often ask their clients to stretch themselves and step out of their comfort zone. Florence, an avid cyclist, did just that and rode her bicycle Coast to Coast along the Southern Tier route from San Diego to San Augustine in 2013. She gained a different perspective of the world from the seat of a bike and says she built mental fortitude, perseverance, and learnt that setbacks are not final.
Florence was looking for another cycling adventure but with the larger goal of raising funds for organizations who provide mental health to the underserved. She managed to create a spark in 2 of her counseling colleagues and Coach, and the Wellness Wheels team (made up of 3 counselors and Coach) was born, under the umbrella of Cycle for Hope.
Charles Gipson, a former MLB outfielder, left an indelible mark on the game of baseball. From the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, his electrifying quick presence thrilled fans throughout his long career in the major leagues, earning a fan favorite name of Super Charles.
Throughout his baseball career, Gipson played a key role in the Mariners' 2001 division win, the Yankees' 2003 AL pennant, and the Astros' 2005 NL pennant. His extensive knowledge of baseball as a former MLB player opened up many opportunities to use his talent in other facets along the way. This includes working with special needs students in the public-school realm, and currently acting as Athletic Director and Coach at Xavier Academy based in Houston, TX.
In addition, Gipson finds a greater sense of meaning in giving back to the community by advocating for youth, a practice that has been engrained since his earlier years in baseball. It was during these times that he was able to work alongside other like minds to participate in MLB youth clinics, including his D.R.E.A.M program where he taught students to dream big and gave them the recipe for success in life.
Soon after leaving baseball, Gipson became Chairman of the Board for a non-profit organization, Children 4 Tomorrow, where he embarked on a journey to help raise funds needed to pay for counseling services for families and children who are survivors of emotional and physical abuse.
Thank you for helping to provide a
Cycle of Hope
for so many in the Houston area.