At 7am on Wednesday 14 June over fifty cyclists hit the road from St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham heading for Paris on one of the hottest days of the year. Four days and 300 miles later, all 52 riders cycled together triumphantly through the famous boulevards of Paris to complete their journey in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on Saturday 17 June, having jointly raised over £100,000 to fund the work of the hospice across South East London.
Mike Conway, 63, from Lee, was pedaling in memory of his son, Thomas, who died at the hospice in November 2015, aged 32. He was among a group of over 40 hospice supporters and ten St Christopher’s staff who have been training exceptionally hard for more than six months to undertake the gruelling four day trip, which involved cycling up to 95 miles in just one day.
Mike explains why he took part, “Five years ago I started cycling socially to keep fit. Tom was constantly sending me links to charity bike rides and saying ‘why don’t you do something useful?’ but I never did. Six months after Tom died, I got an email from St Christopher’s about the London-Paris bike ride and I just thought ‘oh no, he’s still having a go at me!’ So I signed up, both as a tribute to him, but equally to fulfil his nagging. There have been times when training when I’ve thought ‘Tom why did you get me into this?’ but I’m spurred on by him even after his death. Taking part was also a great way to support St Christopher’s who did so much for him.
“Tom was the oldest of our four children and became an English and Drama teacher. He was married with two small children. Tom had lived with a brain tumour for around 10 years but in September 2015 all treatment was stopped as the tumour hadn’t been responding to it. His 32 birthday was on 17 November, and he died less than a week later.
“Tom spent the last 80 days of his life as an inpatient at St Christopher’s, and it became his second home. The level of care at the hospice was astonishing, there was nothing that was too much trouble for the staff. Our whole family were supported through services at the hospice, from practical support through advice to counselling. You never felt that there were staff, families and patients; instead we were a community, acting as one, with our sole aim to manage this difficult situation for everybody.
“I’ve never done anything like this before but everyone assured me that it would be fun, which fortunately, it has been! The sense of comradery among the group was amazing. I did the ride with my friends Dai and Patrick, and all our families were here to meet us in Paris which was phenomenal. Everyone has been very keen to come and welcome us at the finish line, but less so to do the ride! My family have raised more than £7,000 in total. People were happy to support us, both because St Christopher’s is a fantastic cause, and in memory of Tom too”.
It’s not too late to donate funds to support St Christopher’s London to Paris event – visit http://bit.ly/2soa3oy
In 2017, St Christopher’s is celebrating its 50th anniversary – and by extension the 50th anniversary of modern hospice care – with a variety of events, including the ‘50:50’ event (50 riders cycling for 50 years of hospice care, from London to Paris).
For further St Christopher’s anniversary events, see www.stchristophers.org.uk/event-type/50-years