FEATURE: Organisers step up a gear for final St Edmunds Wheel Trust bike ride
As St Edmunds Wheel Trust Bike Ride nears its final leg after a triumphant reign as one of the town’s fund-raising champions, organisers want to step it up a gear for the event’s swansong.
In the ride’s 18-year journey, it has attracted more than 10,000 cyclists and collected £232,000 for scores of good causes - turning the financial wheel to help those in need, support community projects and even save lives.
For its last ride on June 14 and in Suffolk’s ‘Year of Cycling’, organisers Ian Turner, Steve Laycock and Brian Hurrell want to attract 1,000 cyclists and push their grand total to £250,000.
Steve says: “We hope there’s lots of people and to go out on a high would be fantastic. The whole thing has been extremely fulfilling to support all of these good people in the community.”
The trio have taken part in their fair share of charity cycle rides and the Bury initiative was born during a ‘debriefing’ after one of these events at The Victoria pub, in Thurston.
Steve jokes: “We all thought we would go home and come to our senses. Unfortunately Mr Hurrell decided he would take up the gauntlet.”
Starting as the Bury Bike Ride in September 1998 from the old Moreton Hall Community Centre, the fledgling event drew 60 riders and raised £1,100 for the Rainbow Appeal at West Suffolk Hospital and Marie Curie.
From there, it accelerated with more routes, participants and funds - drawing participants from the ages of five to 70, according Brian, who is an accountant at Culford Waste.
They have handed cheques to nearly 80 good causes at their annual presentation evenings. Age Concern, Focus12, Gatehouse Food Bank, Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, Neonatal Unit and more than £50,000 for St Nicholas Hospice - think of any Bury or Suffolk organisation and chances are they’ve supported it.
Ian, of Abbey Motor Factors, says: “We only give money to local charities. The list is endless who we’ve given money to. The beneficiaries of it are just phenomenal.”
Steve, a roofing contractor for Pro-Flat Group, says: “It’s very humbling to meet these people. They do amazing work - they’re out at the sharp end helping people in the community. We’re just helping with the finances. The work they do is really impressive and it’s a pleasure to support them.”
Bury Free Press campaigns have also benefitted with 37 organisations and individuals each receiving cheques through our Helping Hand Appeal.
In fact the project Ian was most proud to support was the BFP’s Beat It! Appeal which successfully raised £65,000 towards a new prostate cancer scanner for West Suffolk Hospital.
Ian and Steve say: “That really does look as though that may have saved some lives. You can see a tangible benefit.”
Barry Peters, editor who led the Beat It! Appeal and has taken part in numerous Trust rides, said: “Over the years the St Edmunds Wheel Trust has made a huge impact and been a real ‘helping hand’ for those in need in the community. For this and their contributiion to Bury Free Press appeals we thank them.
“It is a testament to the hard work of Ian, Steve and Brian and we wish them all the success for their last ride.”
They formed St Edmunds Wheel Trust in 2003 to gain charitable status and the ride now leaves from the Abbey Gardens.
Over the years they have added 15, 30, 50, 75 and 100 mile routes and for its final year they have arranged a 124 mile ride. The 100 and 124 routes go to Aldeburgh and back.
The event, which officially launches at 9am with an 8am start for the larger routes, also features a duck race, jazz group as well as food and refreshments.
Why have they decided to end it now?
Ian and Steve say: “There’s a lot of work. Brain prepares a lot of material for this throughout the year and it does stretch people. At some stage you’ve got to say you’ve achieved a lot.”
Steve adds: “You get to a stage where you see a target in sight and say well that’s probably a good point to draw a line and get out while people are still enjoying it and there’s enough participation. It has given a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.”
As Suffolk enters its ‘Year of Cycling’ with the Women’s and Men’s Tour coming to the county, Steve says cycling is a great way to keep fit, socialise and see the countryside.
Reflecting on their achievements, he says: “You just need someone who is a driving force and Brian has been that driving force and Brian has been the driving force. The amount of work that’s gone into it has been phenomenal.”
Ian adds: “We’ve got to say a big thank you to the sponsors - we’ve had some great support.
“For three blokes from Bury to raise £250,000 in 18 years I just think that’s a wonderful thing.
“We would like everyone to come along for our last one - 1,000 cyclists and £250,000 and make it a day to remember.”
For details on how to take part visit www.stedmundswheel.org.uk or call Brain on 01284 761837.