Two wounded veterans from the North East have helped launch a charity bike challenge which will see 60 cyclists ride through the region to raise funds for Help for Heroes and its northern Recovery Centre.
The Tartan Express Hero Ride 2014 was today launched in Edinburgh as part of the wider Hero Ride challenge, which brings together bike rides from across the country and finishes with ten miles on closed roads through London on June 8. The northern route will take place from June 1-8 and will see riders cover 440 miles.
Craig Donaghue, 33, of Middlesbrough and Mikey Hall, 38, of Richmond, both took part in last year’s Hero Ride from Edinburgh to London. They returned to the Scottish city this week to inspire school children to set themselves physical challenges and to give them a chance to try out the hand bikes they used to complete the route.
Back in the North East, the pair are busy encouraging people to sign up to the Tartan Express Hero Ride, as, for the first time, members of the public can take part too. They will cycle with a group of ten military personnel and veterans who are currently being supported by Help for Heroes Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick.
To link in with the centenary of WW1, the chosen route has a military theme, passing by Army and RAF bases, including Catterick Garrison.
Craig, a former Green Howards soldier, injured his back in 2003 but carried on serving until the pain made it impossible for him to do so. He was medically discharged in February, 2013.
He said training for the Hero Ride in June, 2013, really kick-started his recovery and improved life for his family. Now he plans to act as part of the support team to this year’s riders.
“Help for Heroes bought me a handbike so I could take my daughter to the park as I wasn’t able to walk very far. That’s the bike I used for the Hero Ride,” he said.
“Before I started coming to Phoenix House, I was depressed and taking out my frustrations on my family. The Hero Ride really helped me focus on getting out and about.
“I would strongly encourage anyone to take part as it was a truly inspirational experience.”
Mikey, who served with 1st the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, was left paralysed from the chest down after an accident on an army assault course.
“I loved the enjoyment, excitement and companionship that cycling with a team brings - that feeling of being back in the fold which I really missed when I had to leave the army,” he said.
Part of the money raised from the Tartan Express Hero Ride will go towards building projects at Phoenix House that will enable Help for Heroes to widen the range of support offered to residents.
Mo Usman, Help for Heroes Centre Manager in Catterick, said he couldn’t wait to welcome the cyclists when they stop off at the Centre on Day 3 of the ride.
“It’s such an important event for us,” he said. “Our wounded, injured and sick who are taking part will receive full-training through the Centre and it really gives them a goal to focus on.
“We are looking to expand the number of activities and services that we offer at Phoenix House over the next couple of years and money raised through the Hero Ride will be invaluable in helping us with that goal.”
Help for Heroes has also announced the return of professional road cyclist and charity Patron, Mark Cavendish as a Hero Ride Ambassador.
He said: “The Hero Ride is an amazing opportunity to cycle alongside our wounded men and women, and to hear their inspirational stories. I’ve seen how Help for Heroes supports them and their families, and in 2014 that support is going to be more important than ever.
“I’d urge anyone who has ever thought about doing something life-changing or challenging to do their bit and sign-up to the Hero Ride 2014. I hope to join the ride myself, and my wife Peta will be taking part in her third Hero Ride.”
In 2013, its inaugural year, Hero Ride raised an incredible £1.1m. 1,300 people of all ages and abilities got on their bikes in support of the thousands of men and women who are living with life changing injuries and illnesses sustained while serving our country.
Hero Ride 2014 is going to be even bigger and better. The target is to smash last year’s total by getting 2,000 cyclists to help raise £1.5m and show our young men and women that the Great British Public are here to support them for life.
There will also be new Hero Rides for 2014, coming in from Manchester, Cardiff and the Tedworth House Recovery Centre in Tidworth, as well as the return of the ‘Dawn Raid’ sportive which will see participants ride through daybreak towards London.
Each ride will have its own special feel and present a unique challenge, but they will all join together at Blackheath Common to form one giant peloton for the last ten miles to the Grand Finale in central London. Participants also have the chance to organise their own Hero Ride from wherever they choose, to join up with the other routes at Blackheath on June 8.
As part of Hero Ride, H4H’s signature ride, the Big Battlefield Bike Ride, returns for the seventh year. As 2014 is the Centenary year of the start of the war, it will follow the route of the 1914 WW1 Retreat from Brussels to Paris.
To find out how to get involved in Hero Ride, to sign up or donate please visit www.heroride.org.uk or text HERO RIDE to 60777 (standard text rate) and we'll call you back!
Anyone who served in the Army, Navy or Royal Air Force who needs the help of Phoenix House Recovery Centre can self-refer by calling 01748 834148.