Posted on Friday 16 September 2011 by Ulster Business

Belfast team get on their bikes for cancer charity

Some of the team making the 300 mile bike trip from London to Paris
Back row (Left to Right): Jeremy Lyons, Royal Victoria Hospital; Andrew Dowie, PA Consulting; Gary Spence, Ulster Hospital; Mark McKeown, First Trust Bank.
Front row (Left to Right): Ralph Mercer, Kennedy Orthodontics; Alan Bailie, RoyalVictoriaHospital

Ulster Business finds out what has led a group of 13 cyclists from the local business and medical communities to take on a 300 mile bike ride from London to Paris later this month

A group of Northern Ireland business people, solicitors and doctors will this month undertake the longest bike ride of their lives in a bid to raise money for charity.

Team Lanterne Rouge are aiming to raise £10,000 for the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children to help it provide a wide range of support services and respite for families living with the difficulties caused by youth and childhood cancer.

What started as a vague idea of doing some sort of charity cycle in Ireland, hatched by a few friends over a coffee on a Sunday morning, quickly snowballed into a team of 13 committing to undertake a challenging 300 mile bike ride from London to Paris on September 21-24 – the logistics of which were largely organised by Mark McKeown from First Trust Bank.

The NICFC is a charity close to the hearts of all of the team members but which has a real personal meaning for one member of the group. Andrew Dowie, who works with PA Consulting in Belfast, has a son who was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2009.

“As a group it’s about completing the challenge, having some fun along the way and hopefully raising a decent amount of money for charity,” says Andrew.

“But for me the reasons for doing the cycle are very personal as the start of the ride coincides with the second anniversary of my son’s chemotherapy starting, having been diagnosed with Leukaemia in September 2009, and we finish the trip on his 6th birthday. So there is a certain symmetry to the trip.”

Andrew says the cycle challenge is their way of putting something back in to the charities that have helped his family – a responsibility the other members of the team have also been happy to take on.

NICFC depends on donations and fundraising to continue providing its services and the team are paying for the trip themselves so that all proceeds from the cycle go directly to the charity at a time when demand for its services are increasing.

Andrew comments: “NICFC provide a wide range of services and for us this meant family support during the intensive phases of treatment. The charity also provides respite support which allows us as a family to get a break together during the year – either at the Shimna Valley centre in Newcastle or at Pine Cottage in Coleraine, which is great. They also have lots of great events during the year, which give families such as ours a real lift and give the kids something to look forward to.”

First Trust Bank and its staff charity organisation have donated considerable sums to the fundraising effort by sponsoring the team jerseys.

The team has also received corporate sponsorship from Chain Reaction Cycles, which provided a Vitus bike for them to auction or raffle off, as well as bike bags and kit to help them on the cycle itself.

“We would be struggling to get there if the NI Cancer Fund for Children themselves hadn’t loaned us one of their minibuses and Interfrigo Shipping Services hadn’t organised a ferry for us to get across,” adds Andrew.

“We have also had great support from local businesses, which have supported our fundraising in providing quiz and raffle prizes. The help has been amazing and we really want to do that support justice.”

If you are keen to contribute to the team’s fundraising effort you can do so at their fundraising page

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