After Richard Bradford organised and completed his EPIC 3-day cycle event in support of Ataxia UK, we met with him to catch up on how it went and his plans for 2019.

“The EPIC 3-day cycle (following the successful 2017 London to Paris Cycle), was put in place to raise funds towards a research project on Friedreich's ataxia (FA). My daughter Meg was diagnosed with FA around two and a half years ago and now, at only 16 years old, she already depends on a fully automated wheelchair. Meg’s condition is progressing quickly and continues to get worse, I can’t just sit back and do nothing, I must find a cure. That’s why I chose to organise this event.

The event

From 18 to 20 September 2018, 18 cyclists (including myself) covered 250 miles on bikes and 3000ft on foot up Mount Snowden. Day one began in Berkshire, cycling from Bisham Abbey to Worcester. We then cycled to Oswestry, the home of the specialist hospital that has helped Meg very much. Day three took us through North Wales reaching a windy and rainy Mount Snowden, ready for our trek. This was the most testing part, I hadn’t realised how weak my ankle was from past surgeries and only made it half way, although, most of the team got to the top. My hobble back down was one of pride and emotion rather than failure, we did what many thought we couldn’t and its similar battles that Meg faces every day.

I soon came to realise that the taking part wasn’t really the main challenge. The hardest part was the emotional attachment I had to the event. With a background in operational directing, I’ve organised many events. It took a huge amount of effort to pull this relatively simple event together and until you do it you don’t realise how hard it can be. I would advise anyone with an emotional attachment and looking to do this, to please have a team for support, I was lucky to have some incredible work colleagues and friends.

Previous to the event, I was lucky enough to be invited to the ‘Barmies’ at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, the annual dinner for the Barmy Army Cricket Supporters Club. Here, I told my story as a dad of a child with FA and I saw the reaction in people’s faces. ‘What would you do for your daughter, how far would you go?’ It was overwhelming. An auction followed raising an additional £3.5k, along with support from many. It was amazing, and all because the audience connected with me talking about my daughter; how I used to hold her hand a little tighter because she was clumsy and could stumble, to be diagnosed with FA and knowing that the only certainty currently is she will get worse… They didn’t know anything about Friedriech’s ataxia, but they do now, and they know what it means to be a dad and parent. I will do everything to help find a cure.

I was supported by Ataxia UK throughout the event, Rebecca Holt – the Community and Events Fundraising Manager – is one of the most genuinely lovely people I have ever met and was always there for support. Besides sharing the event on my own social media, I had my own fundraiser/event page on the Ataxia UK website, and they shared the event throughout their channels. The morning we set off, they posted a photo captioning "they're off" , and posted updates as we reached our destinations. It was great to have such fantastic support.

Looking ahead

This year I will be taking part in two 100-mile challenges; firstly Norwich and then RideLondon on behalf of #miles4meg. My friend Ian Morley is hosting an event called the Ataxia Cafe Crawl: a sponsored 22-mile event on 19 April 2019. This all-inclusive event encourages anyone to take part, whether it’s walking, riding or driving part way. Ian is particularly proud to have people with ataxia involved. We need to organise more events that include people with disabilities, so they can feel empowered. I am also organising the London-Edinburgh-London Ride for 2022 so watch this space!

Host your own

Being a parent is more than just taking care of your child and dealing with the reality of your child’s condition, the bombshell wasn’t hearing that she had FA, it was hearing that there’s no cure. I won’t stop until there is one, please support us, and let’s be part of the cure #miles4meg.”

All events are a fantastic way to get involved with fundraising and supporting people, no matter how big or small. For anyone feeling inspired by this wonderful story and wanting to set up an event, our fundraising team will be happy to help you achieve an event full of success. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact at [email protected] or call 020 7582 1444.

Read more on #Miles4Meg here.