St Giles Hopice fundraising champion looks to rally support
A hospice hero who cycled 1,000 miles in one month to support St Giles is calling on people to join the Cycle Autumn bike ride this September.
Andy Barker, aged 67, cycled to the hospice and back from his Burton home every day in June (2021), raising £2,467 including Gift Aid. He also donated 100 hours throughout the month as a volunteer to support patients and their families.
Now he is encouraging people of all ages and abilities to sign up for the popular bike ride on Sunday, September 5, to help raise funds for the hospice which gave his wife “excellent” end of life care.
Andy said: “Cycle Autumn is a great event for people of all abilities. You get the keen cyclists taking part who can compete and get their exercise while raising funds for St Giles, but you don’t have to be Tour de France quality. I first did Cycle St Giles three years ago with my sister-in-law. I hadn’t used my bike much at the time – I just jumped in the saddle and took part.
“I was a volunteer steward at Cycle Spring this year and it was great to see all the families and casual cyclists, as well as more experienced riders, just having fun and raising funds while having a good day out.”
Andy started fundraising for St Giles after his wife Belinda, 55, died of cancer at the hospice in November 2015. She had previously received day therapies as an outpatient and had been having Hospice at Home support until her condition worsened and she was admitted as an inpatient.
He said: “Belinda was in St Giles for 10 days before she passed away and our children and I were able to visit. Belinda had excellent care at St Giles, you really could not fault it. Everyone at the hospice did everything they could for her.
“I then had bereavement support from the team at St Giles, which I found really helpful. My children were also offered support – we all really appreciated the help on offer to us, it was excellent,” he added. “If you reach the point where you need hospice care then you really couldn’t ask for more – you couldn’t get better care anywhere else. The facilities at St Giles are second to none and if you’d rather receive support at home then St Giles will help with that as well.”
This year Cycle Autumn will begin and end at the Whittington hospice with different routes exclusive to the autumn event. Start times are staggered from 7.30am. Riders can choose from four different distances – a 26-mile route for all riders aged 10 and over, a 50-mile route, a 75-mile route and a 100-mile challenge for keen and experienced riders.
Zoe Wright, Events Manager at St Giles Hospice said: “Andy Barker is a fantastic supporter of St Giles Hospice who has really gone above and beyond the call of duty to help us. We hope his words will inspire many more cyclists of all ages to take part in Cycle Autumn.
“We like to give our cyclists a variety of routes that cater for all abilities, and all of our routes take you through the beautiful Staffordshire countryside. We make cycling simple – all you have to do is turn up, follow the signs and enjoy yourself!
“We are absolutely delighted that Cycle Autumn is back, as the event is one of our largest fundraisers of the year – in 2019 it raised a fantastic £43,650. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to temporarily close our shops and cancel our fundraising events in 2020 and early 2021, so this September we really need our community to take to their saddles and pedal to raise pounds for St Giles Hospice.”
Entry to Cycle Autumn is £35 with tickets available until midday on Thursday 2nd September.
The event will retain a number of COVID-19 measures, including staggered start times and maximum group bookings of six people, for the safety, health and wellbeing of all supporters, volunteers and staff.
Patients come from across the hospice’s catchment area, which ranges from Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Atherstone in the east, to Cannock in the west – and from Burton and Uttoxeter in the north, to Sutton Coldfield and Coleshill in the south.
Care is offered at the hospice’s centres in Whittington and Sutton Coldfield and in patients’ own homes across the region.
St Giles spends over £10 million a year providing its specialist services and with little more than a third of this funded by the Government, the registered charity relies heavily on donations and income generation from the local community.