Help for Heroes
By JRtB, posted 23 October 2017
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Cycling is one of the easiest, healthiest and most effective ways to support a charity and Help for Heroes is no exception. We share three stories from just a few of the many fundraisers who have pedalled hundreds of miles to raise money and support for wounded veterans and their families.
Phil Merritt, 49, from Wincanton, joined Deloitte’s Ride Across Britain (DRAB), which saw participants ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the space of nine days.
A pilot for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, Phil has always been a keen cyclist, riding nine miles to and from work every day. He was inspired to enter the DRAB after experiencing the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance charity’s own Coast to Coast cycle, a 54-mile ride from North Somerset, to Bridport. He enjoyed it so much, that he decided to look for a longer, more difficult event.
After browsing a cycling magazine, Deloitte’s challenge caught his eye, and he chose to make the trip worthwhile by raising funds for his Charity, as well as the military charity, Help for Heroes. It made sense to Phil because of his previous connections with the RAF to raise money for wounded, injured and sick service personnel.
Nine days of riding across Britain
The ride began on Saturday, September 9, and during the next nine days, riders cycled across some of Britain’s most picturesque landscapes, as well as experiencing the nation’s notorious bad weather. If the ride wasn’t tough enough, Phil and his fellow competitors also had to experience campsites that had turned into mud baths due to the atrocious conditions during the early autumn.
Phil said: “It was really hard work, there was an accident at one stage, and people did crash. The weather was very, very poor, and the winds were so powerful that we were trickling down a descent!”
He crossed the finish line in John O’Groats on September 17 and was surprised by his sense of relief, but extremely proud to have raised money for the two charities. He said: “I have been a supporter of Help for Heroes since it started. I felt that there is not enough support for our soldiers, and the Charity helps remedy that situation. I would recommend Deloitte’s challenge, if you like cycling then I would definitely do it, it is a great event.”
One of the biggest cycling events in the Help for Heroes calendar is the Big Battlefield Bike Ride (BBBR). This occurs annually in the autumn, featuring fundraisers from the UK cycling to one of the main battlefields from the conflicts of the 20th century. The 2017 ride, 11-15 September, was an adapted route from Lille to Arnhem, to commemorate Operation Market Garden: the failed attempt by the Allies during the WW2 to seize bridges across the River Rhine and Meuse depicted in the film, A Bridge Too Far.
The riders come in all shapes and sizes. Elspeth Brown, 62, from Herne Bay, has ridden in each BBBR since she was inspired as a member of a choir performing at Horse Guards during the finale of the 2013 BBBR. Elspeth than applied to take part in the following year’s event, meaning she returned to the saddle after a 40-year gap, and she has since taken part each year. Elspeth struggled on her initial BBBR, but on one hill climb, she saw the determination of an injured soldier, and was inspired to succeed.
She said: “When I took part in the first ride, it was a real eye opener for me. There was great camaraderie between the participants. They come from all walks of life, and are a great bunch of people.”
Elspeth has no current connection to the Armed-Forces, although her great-uncle was a sailor onboard HMS Hood, the flagship of the Royal Navy, when it was sunk by the mighty German battleship, the Bismarck.
Another rider, former Ministry of Defence policeman, David Howe, 64, from Saltburn also completed the ride from Lille to Arnhem with 200 other cyclists. David originally entered his first trip by chance, as he planned to visit cemeteries across Northern France to pay his respects to fallen family members. He then discovered that the 2014 Big Battlefield Bike Ride was passing directly by the battlefields of the First World War, and he soon signed up. But the former policeman did not expect the process to be arranged so quickly.
He said: “At that point I was 60, and hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a kid. The next thing I had an email saying I was in!”
Humbling & inspiring: an exceptional cause
From his previous challenges, David remembers the determination of several of the wounded, injured and sick Service Personnel who took part, and the refusal to be beaten by a hill, or fatigue. This memory and the example of others only helped to reinforce to him why it was so important to take part in the BBBR. But it was the closeness, and brotherhood, that he witnessed on the trip that has left a lasting impression. This was no different on the 2017 adventure.
David said he was humbled by the experience: “You really need to do the ride to understand it, it is so difficult to put into words. The services held at the cemeteries really put everything into perspective. It doesn’t not matter where you are from, or what you do, everybody pulls together to complete the ride.”
Help for Heroes is an exceptional cause and a great charity. But it is proof again, that the humble bicycle does not just represent a way of becoming healthier, it is a social tool for good that binds people, helps support great causes and is brilliantly simple.
Just ride the bike: it is way more than just a mode of transport.
To find out more about how you can raise money by cycling for help for Heroes visit their charity web site visit, www.helpforheroes.org.uk
Elspeth, in the blue helmet centre, leads off on another Big Battlefield Bike Ride
David Howe, was inspired by to get back on his bike after more than forty years
The 2017 Big Battlefield Bike Ride went from Lille to Arnhem and comprised of 200 cyclists
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