[Aug 30, 2021: John Toner]
A loving father is keeping alive his daughter’s memory by taking on 10 long-distance cycle rides for a stillborn charity.
Doting dad-of-two David Charles (44) has already completed seven of 10 marathon rides and aims to complete the set by the end of the year.
So far he has completed laps of Lough Neagh and Loch Ness as well as taking on a number of long-distance routes across Northern Ireland.
David took up the challenge last year to mark 10 years since he and wife Claire lost their baby daughter Rachel who was stillborn in 2010.
The accountant from Doagh, Co Antrim, says the challenge has enabled him to keep Rachel’s memory alive and raise money for a good cause with the fundraising total currently sitting at just over £15,500.
He told Sunday Life: “In early 2020 I had this notion to take on these charity cycles for the stillborn charity Sands, it would have been on the 10th anniversary of losing my little girl Rachel in September 2010.
“Then Covid-19 struck and put paid to all my good plans and all the events I signed up to got cancelled.
“So I decided rather than doing it via official charity rides I’d just do my own and did my first one last August which was a lap of the 99.8 miles around Lough Neagh.
“I then started working through a whole list of them in Northern Ireland in Antrim, Larne, Fermanagh and Lisburn.
“It’s been so encouraging because people have joined us along the way and started their own fundraising web pages and it has really grown legs, it’s been fantastic.
“I would like to get finished by the end of the year. Everyone has been rooting for us and really getting behind us which was been incredible, we’ve had about 10 or 11 people join the team along the way too which is fantastic. It’s obviously in memory of my little girl Rachel and has helped keep her memory and her name alive which is a wonderful thing.
“I’ve enjoyed it too, it has got me fit and has raised money for a great cause as well as keeping the memory of our little girl alive and present in our memories.
“So lots of good has come of it and if I manage to eventually complete the 10 cycles, I’ll be delighted.”
David and his team are raising money for The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (or Sands), which helps families across the United Kingdom who are bereaved by stillbirth.
A dad to daughters Emily (12) and Naomi (9), he said the journey he and his wife went on with Rachel, their middle child, was the most difficult thing the couple have ever experienced.
However, he added he hoped to help others by raising cash and helping to boost the profile of Sands.
He said: “It was the hardest thing that we have ever had to endure but I suppose in those hard times you try to make the most of difficult situations and Sands were fantastic.
“They brought Claire a little memory box on the first day with pictures, a wee blanket and a wee hat. They were very present but not in your face, they were very good.
“We later attended a support group which Claire took a lot from and found really useful. Ten years on and my wife is still involved in that local group of ours up in Antrim.
“It’s a really good charity and I suppose this is about us giving back a little bit, part of Cycle For Rachel is raising money but the other part is trying to raise their profile. There may be others out there who are going through this but have never heard of Sands who might benefit from the work they do.”
David aims to complete three more long-distance cycles by the end of December and is also taking part in an all day cycle on a static bike in the Ballyclare, Co Antrim branch of Asda on October 2.
More information about Sands and Cycle for Rachel can be found on the Justgiving page at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-charles10
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