An army veteran, who organised a sponsored cycle ride along the route of Hadrian’s Wall, has handed over three new gym bikes, bought with the proceeds, to Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Catterick.
Jim Holborn was injured when his parachute failed to open while he was serving with the Royal Logistic Corps in 2002. He fell 800ft to the ground, snapping all the ligaments and tendons in his left ankle. After learning to walk again, he was deployed to Iraq, since when he has suffered from mental health problems.
Having been supported in his recovery by staff at Phoenix House RC, Jim was determined that fellow veterans there should benefit from the proceeds of the event. Known as the Emperor Ride, it saw 24 cyclists cover the 100-mile route in two days last May.
Explained Jim: “So many charity bike rides tend to be in the South of England. I’m from Sunderland and wanted to create something that beneficiaries and supporters of Help for Heroes, who live in the North of England and Scotland, could take part in without having to travel hundreds of miles just to get to the start.
“As Hadrian’s Wall is on the border of both regions, it seemed an obvious choice to follow its route.”
One of the veterans who took part in the ride was Dave Shaw from Newcastle. Having endured a major spine operation in which he had scaffolding placed around his spine, a plate in his left shoulder and his neck fused, he uses a recumbent trike.
It was Dave’s sterling efforts in training, and his determination to complete the full distance despite crashing and coming off his bike on a tight, downhill bend on Day One, that inspired Jim to earmark the sponsor money for a static, adaptive bike to be kept in the gym at Phoenix House.
Thanks to great support from local companies, Jim was able to keep the organisational costs and registration fee to a minimum, meaning that more of the sponsorship raised by the cyclists could be donated to Help for Heroes.
In the end, he more than doubled the £3,000 he had hoped to raise, and therefore was able to buy two recumbent trikes plus one traditional spinning bike.
“I was really pleased with the amount collected in. Exercise has played a huge part in my recovery and if, through providing these bikes to the Recovery Centre, I can encourage one or two wounded veterans to go into the gym and give them a try, it will have been worth all the effort!” said the 36-year-old father of two.
“Those who can’t use an upright bike because of their injuries now have the chance to try a recumbent. If they enjoy using one, then it may prompt them to get their own road version, so that they can exercise in the fresh air and go out and about with their family or friends.”
Phoenix House Physical Development Manager, Rob Hood, said the adaptive bikes provided by Jim were ideal for those with back and hip problems. Previously, someone wanting to join in a spinning class would have to provide their own recumbent trike and it would have to be set up on a turbo trainer, which isn’t easy.
“Having two of them here will open up training and exercise opportunities for those who can’t weight bear on the lower half of their body. They can join in spinning classes or just train on their own.” Rob added.
“Either way, it could really enhance their lifestyle.”
Former RAF Engineer Officer Jon Knott, who has Multiple Sclerosis, also completed the Emperor Ride on a recumbent trike and is delighted that he and his fellow cyclists contributed to the purchase of bikes that he will be able to use.
“As a recumbent rider, you can’t go on the road in winter but we can now train safely indoors and make full use of the new facilities.”
Keen to build on his success and create an annual fundraising event in the North, Jim is now busy planning another Emperor Ride for this summer* – in between training for Invictus Games selection.
“I don’t want to lose the momentum or the amazing support that I received for the inaugural event so my aim is to organise a second ride, even if I am unable to take part myself!” he said.
David McNeil, Help for Heroes Head of Recovery North, said the Charity’s aim was to empower veterans to once more make a positive impact in society.
“Jim is a prime example of that. Not only has he organised a very successful fundraising event, but he did so because he wanted to ‘give back’ and, in doing so, enable other wounded, injured and sick Service personnel and veterans to be supported during their recovery in the same way that he has been and will continue to be for as long as he needs it.
“Jim is very much a part of The Force for Good.”
*Anyone interested in joining Jim’s next fundraising venture, as a cyclist, sponsor or member of the support team, can contact him via the event’s Facebook page - Emperor Bike Ride II.