Leamington-born former England footballer Ben Foster has shared a message of support to help propel fundraisers ahead of a gruelling 180-mile bike ride in aid of Warwick charity Molly Ollys.
Foster, himself an avid cyclist, produces a YouTube channel called The Cycling GK – and has put his weight behind the epic challenge, involving 52 riders from across the UK, via a special video message.
Months of training will culminate in the cyclists saddling up in York on Friday (July 9th) where they’ll be officially seen on their way by the city’s Sheriff, and follow a route through The Pennines and Derbyshire before arriving at The Durham Ox in Shrewley three days later.
Among the local riders taking part are Gurmukh Hayre and Adrian Baker from Knowle and Gerard O’Gorman from Solihull.
Gurmukh, who has been a trustee for the Molly Ollys for five years, said: “The charity does such fantastic work and being able to have some pleasure doing what you do as a hobby while also doing something good is a wonderful opportunity. To have an organised ride, which is not a road race but an event, offers a lot of camaraderie and friendship.
“We all stick together so when someone has a problem or gets a puncture we all rally round to help. The spirit is fantastic.
He added: “Unless you are an incredibly fit cyclist you relish the challenge of something like this, for most people the challenge is tackling the hills after you’ve already clocked up a lot of miles. It becomes a more of a mental challenge but you remember why you’re doing it and use that as your mental purpose which keeps you going.
“We always hope for dry weather but once you’re out, you’re out and you just deal with whatever comes your way. You just stick your waterproof in your back pocket!
Foster played football at Racing Club Warwick as a youngster before going on to professional goalkeeping, with spells at, among others, Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City and Watford FC and made his England debut in 2007.
A previous supporter of the charity, he said: “I have been to one of the Molly Ollys Annual Balls in the past which was a great evening and I am aware of the wonderful work that the Charity does to emotionally support children across the UK with life-threatening illnesses.
“Having two children myself, I cannot begin to imagine to horror of being told your little one is seriously ill and not knowing if they will regain their health. I wish all of the cyclists taking part the very best of luck; 185 miles is tough but I know they will remember what Molly and all the other children have been through so they will complete the challenge and I hope they raise lots of money for Molly Ollys.”
Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.
The Warwick-based charity, which this year marks its 10th anniversary, works to support children with terminal or life-threatening illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate 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 more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.
Part of more than £3m raised to date, has also been used to fund the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Tim and Rachel chose York as the starting point as it was one of the last holidays they all spent together as a family with Molly.
Rachel said: “We decided to do this cycle event in 2022 to celebrate 10 years of Molly’s legacy. It is a special route for us as York is one of the last places we – as a family – visited before Molly died so it holds poignant memories.
“I am so delighted that so many people wanted to get involved and cycle more than 160 miles to raise funds for the Charity. It is outpourings of support like this that allow us to keep on making a difference to the lives of children with life-threatening illnesses.”
For more information or to make a donation, please visit www.mollyolly.co.uk