A BRIDGEND surgeon is hoping to be a tower of strength as he gears up for a 500-mile charity cycle ride between famous landmarks in Paris and Blackpool this weekend.
Dr Richard Johnson is among a group of five fundraisers cycling between the Eiffel Tower and Blackpool Tower from June 30th.
He’ll be joined by his brother Michael – who organised the trip to coincide with his 50th birthday – and friends Michael Brace from Bridgend; Richard Onions, from Portsmouth and Phil Rotheram and Barry Young, from Chesterfield.
They will make overnight stops during the six-day challenge in Horsham, Aylesbury, Atherstone and Macclesfield before arriving in Blackpool.
It’s a third cycling challenge for Richard, 54, who has previously tackled Arch to Arc (Marble Arch to The Arc de Triomph) and six countries in three days.
He’ll be raising money for Warwickshire charity Molly Olly’s Wishes, which was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.
It works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing, grants wishes and donates therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.
Mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly the Brave pack that has now been handed out to 40 hospitals across the UK along with a book from its exclusive Olly The Brave series.
The charity, which has raised more than £2m, last year funded the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric palliative medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Richard, who is the Clinical Director and Senior Surgeon at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, met Molly’s dad Tim through their association with the International Socca Federation – the industry-leading organiser of international small-sided football competitions.
He said: “My brother organises a riding challenge every two years and, for his 50th year we thought we should do something different. Originally we were finishing in Paris, but felt for this we should finish in our home town and then have a birthday party – despite the fact people say we are cycling uphill to Blackpool! I am very proud to be raising money for such an important charity.
“To prepare I try to go out most weekends, Saturday and Sunday first thing before the roads get busy. There are plenty of mountains nearby to develop some stamina. I am excited and nervous at the same time about the prospect of this ride.”
Tim Ollerenshaw is joining the group for one leg of the trip, said: “What Richard is doing is a wonderful thing and all the team at Molly Olly’s are immensely grateful. Donations received enable us to support the lives of children with life threatening illnesses and their families.
“It is a magnificent example of the power of sport to bring everyone together. Richard and I met through 6 a side football and that sense of community is a key thing in all sport – but it seems particularly so in small sided football.”
Donations can be made here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardJohnson28
Learn more about the charity at www.mollyolly.co.uk