An intrepid team of mobility scooter riders has just completed a remarkable 432-mile charity challenge.
Under the banner of Team Freeriders, the group of three disabled scooter users clocked up to 100 miles a day to journey between the southernmost and northernmost points of Ireland – at top speeds of 8mph.
The challenge was the brainchild of businessman Gerry Magennis, whose wife Helen was one of the team of scooter riders.
Helen was injured in a head-on collision 13 years ago and now uses crutches and mobility scooter to get about. She works as a bookkeeper for Gerry’s mobility scooter company, based from home near Lisburn, County Antrim, in Northern Ireland.
Speaking before the group set out on their adventure, Gerry told the Belfast Telegraph about the devastating impact of Helen’s accident.
"The other driver was overtaking a bus on a dip in the road, and went straight into Helen," he said. "The car was a total write-off - it took them 35 minutes to cut Helen out of it. Her feet were smashed to bits and she had chest and head injuries. She was in hospital for five weeks and only got out when she did because her nursing training meant she could look after herself.
"After Helen got out of hospital, she was confined to a wheelchair for two years. She can get around on crutches now, but we keep a scooter in the boot for days out when there's a bit of walking involved. She's not doing too bad now - she's on the right side of the sod, anyway, and looking forward to our big trip."
Noel Ingram, who has lived with Parkinson’s disease for more than 20 years, and Sean Hurrell, who has cerebral palsy, joined Helen on the challenge.
Gerry, who rode behind in his van as the team’s support driver, said: “"People look at me as if I'm not wise, but they've been very supportive, too.
"I got the idea about seven years ago - I noticed all these fundraising events with tractors and bikes, and even steam engines, and I thought 'why not mobility scooters?’
“Noel has Parkinson's so we decided to raise money for that, as well as for Marie Curie. Before her accident, Helen was a Marie Curie nurse and we are all too aware of the great support and advice the nurses provide for cancer patients and their families.
"And Parkinson's is a much misunderstood and devastating disease, and we wanted to raise the profile of the charity, Parkinson's UK, in Northern Ireland, as well as a bit of cash for them."
The three ‘mobilateers’ rode top-of-the-range Freerider FR1 scooters, donated by Yorkshire-based company Freerider Luggie. The scooters were powered by specialist batteries, which enabled them to complete an amazing 110 miles on day three of the five-day trip between Mizen Head, County Cork, and Malin Head, County Donegal.
They travelled on A and B roads, avoiding dual carriageways and motorways, averaging around 75 miles each day. The trip was largely without incident, although the brushes burned out on Helen’s scooter after it was pushed a little too hard on day four. But she was able to continue on a back-up machine, while husband Gerry carried out necessary servicing.
A five-person support team also joined them, travelling in a motorhome provided by Richard Morgan of Provincial Group. Noel’s carer Geraldine Murray acted as chief cook and the team used the motor home as a travel base to keep costs down and raise maximum funds for the two charities.
They are hoping their efforts will have raised up to £10,000 for Marie Curie and Parkinson’s UK.
By Help Mobility Team