51 brave supporters of St Elizabeth Hospice cycled more than 300 miles from London to Paris this month.
The Hospice Team 100 battled the wind, the rain (and a dog) on their four day challenge, cycling a total of 324 miles, spending around 24 hours in the saddle, climbing 10,499 feet and burning thousands of calories, all to raise vital funds for St Elizabeth Hospice.
So far the intrepid cyclists have raised over £82,000 and still rising and they are hoping to reach a total of £100,000.
One of the more unusual was a dog, thought to be a German shepherd, which was roaming by the side of the road where the group stopped for lunch on day three. As the group approached a number of them were chased by the pet.
Joanne Rodger, events and challenges fundraiser at the hospice, who was with them on the challenge, said: “All 51 of our Hospice Team 100 are incredible, inspirational people and it has been a privilege to get to know them all over the last year since we launched the cycle ride, and in particular through their journey to Paris.
“They all united as a group and got through the gruelling challenge together, supporting each other through the tough parts. It has been a joy to see them bond as a team and to see them forge friendships which I’m sure will be lifelong.”
Each cyclist aimed to raise £1,850 which is enough to fund a hospice nurse for two months, with many taking on the challenge in memory of loved ones who were cared for by St Elizabeth Hospice.
Miss Rodger added: “Together they’ve raised more than £82,000, which is an amazing amount, and they’re still going. They really want to reach a total of £100,000 which I’m sure they will get to as they’re so determined and passionate about it.
“We are so grateful for their dedication and effort they all put into their fundraising. All the money raised will go towards providing vital care and support to people living with a progressive illness in East Suffolk.”
During the trip the participants had to deal with a number of issues including strong
winds, rain and punctures.
Julian Evans, of Archant said: “(It’s) amazing how much faster you can ride when a snarling, growling guard dog bounds towards you. I think we all had an adrenaline rush courtesy of that particular canine.”
Read about some of the local people taking part…
Liam Harewood, 31, of Ipswich, loved the team spirit of the Hospice Team 100 and is already looking forward to the next adventure.
He said: “At the beginning I was worried because I didn’t know anybody and I was really nervous I wouldn’t have anyone to cycle with, but boy was I wrong!
“The team were amazing, there wasn’t one person I didn’t speak to. The group was filled with such amazing people and the stories I was told have touched me so much, it was such a great adventure to be a part of and I am so proud of all of us.
“The experience and the people I met have made me re-elevate my life. I want to help people and change their lives the way the team did for me. Although it was only a few days, this experience, the tears we shared and the laughs we had, has changed me and for that I thank the Hospice Team 100 from the bottom of my heart.”
Christina Wise, of Ipswich, took on the challenge in memory of her husband, Andy, who was cared in the hospice’s inpatient unit for nine weeks in 2014.
Mrs Wise, who is also an ambassador for the hospice, is already planning more fundraising events to help the team reach their £100,000 sponsorship target.
She said: “When I started the little adventure I was not in a great place as my wedding anniversary and my husband’s birthday were coming up it was the first time I had been away from my children in 18months. However I have come home with a totally different outlook and the future does not seem so daunting anymore.
A week ago we were all strangers but over the four days cycling, we all bonded in one way or another, whether that was sharing our stories and connection to the hospice, having lunch together or helping each other out on the road.
“St Elizabeth Hospice were my second family for nine weeks when my husband was poorly and couldn’t remain at home. What we did for the hospice was amazing and I’m thinking of other ways we can fundraise to raise more so we can say we’ve raised £100,000.”
Adrian Rawlinson, editor of Essential Suffolk magazine, first signed up for the Hospice Team 100 primarily to get fit and in doing so, raise much needed funds for a very worthwhile cause. However, he found himself with new, more serious, personal motivation as his older sister, Catherine, 53, who lives in Devon, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Adrian said: “It was such an incredible experience containing both highs and lows but I know I will always reflect with pride and a very warm glow on what we have achieved.
“I truly hope that in the hilly lanes of Devon similarly Lycra clad over weight middle aged men are pedalling out the miles supporting the facilities on my sister’s doorstep.
“It would be great if we can push the sponsorship to £100k. It would be the perfect conclusion to this particular adventure!”
John Davey, 61, of Ipswich, cycled in memory of his wife, Jo, known as Bobbie, who was cared for by St Elizabeth Hospice after she was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer. She spent her last days at the Hospice in Foxhall Road, Ipswich, in 2005 where she died aged 36.
Mr Davey said: “Bobbie found great comfort and solace during her stays on the inpatient unit at the hospice and the serenity and comfort of the hospice enabled her to maintain her incredible sense of humour to the very end which I was so proud of.
The day Mr Davey and the rest of the team were cycling down to Beauvais, fell on the 10th anniversary of losing Bobbie.
Before Mr Davey left on the trip, he said: “Before I realised the anniversary was on this day, I had doubted that I could complete 300 miles in four days but I knew then that I must make it, not only to raise the funds so vital to the hospice, who I remain eternally grateful to, but also to commemorate such an amazing personality and such big heart.
When Mr Davey returned, he said: “I want to thank the rest of the Hospice Team 100 for their freindship over the journey. They were a fantastic bunch of characters, all wonderful in their own way. If we reach £100k it will be the icing on the cake.”
Tom Barnes, 22, of Ipswich challenged himself along with his friend, Ben Swann, to complete the 300 mile cycle ride in memory of their football manager for local club, Brantham Athletic, who was cared for at St Elizabeth Hospice.
Tom said: “Ben and I both liked cycling and wanted to do something ‘mad’ in memory of Paul as well as to raise awareness of the hospice and all it does for local people, so we signed up for the Hospice Team 100. It was good to remember him this way.
“It was an experience I will never ever forget. I met so many great inspirational people and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again for our next crazy trip in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice.”
Ryan Thompson, 27, of Stowmarket, said: “I had an amazing time on the Hospice Team 100. Each and every person on the team and the support crew from the hospice were amazing people and it was a true honour to get to know them all and share my passion for cycling with them.
“I tore my ACL in my knee during the trip but I was able to push through and continue riding because of the kind words and encouragement from the rest of the team. We all had different reasons for riding, but it was seeing them all put in so much day after day for their own personal reasons that kept me pushing on.”
Joanna Wells, 48, of Ipswich, added: “I was apprehensive about the prospect of spending four days cycling to Paris but despite the weather and undulations I really enjoyed it. I think that is in large part due to the camaraderie of everyone in the team.
“For me it was a personal challenge for a great cause which also coincided with marking the anniversary of losing my mother 20 years to the day that we arrived in Paris. I’m sure that she’d have thought I was mad to cycle so far.
“It was a trip that I will never forget.”