Hells Angels, Quadrophenia, Mods ‘v’ Rockers… Ring any bells? Alarm bells?
Historically, bikers have acquired a negative public profile but like most groups, it’s the minority that create that image, good or bad. Since I passed my test at 25 in the mid-nineties, I have seen and participated in many events where bikers of all types come together for a common cause…riding to raise money for charity.
I don’t know what it is, but it seems to be in our blood and 2019 has been no different. Browsing social media, as you do, scrolling past the kittens and pouting selfie’s Facebook had to offer, I stumbled on a Facebook Group calling themselves ‘Man Up And Ride Bikers’ (with an impressive Woman Up And Ride contingent).
It’s not an organised club with an agenda or a set of rules, but more a family of like-minded bikers who just want to enjoy riding with friends, for fun, company, support and for the sheer love of it.
So the Facebook post about raising money for the Wales Air Ambulance got my attention and I got in touch and asked for some details about the ride. This was going to be a good one…nearly sixty bikers involved with around thirty embarking on the whole trip, the plan was to pretty much do a lap of Wales in two days. Over five hundred miles led by one of the founding members of the group, Owen Hughes from Fishguard.
Owen had new bodywork fitted to his bike and had it resprayed in red to match the air ambulance, fitted a donation box to the back and sold sponsorship space on the bike raising a £1,000 in ‘sticker sponsorship’ alone. Through the Facebook group, auctions for bike paraphernalia and some random comedy prizes, the money started rolling in. And this was just a closed group!
Having not met any of the group yet, I headed to the local Tesco who were accommodating the bike on display right in the entrance, with group members taking donations from generous shoppers who were very pleased to chat and share some experiences of the air ambulance and what it does for the people of Wales.
Did you know the Wales Air Ambulance can fly to any location in Wales in approx. 14 minutes.
As the May Bank Holiday approached, I saw my fundraising pot grow via social media, our local pub, hardware store and village shop, which allowed me to bring over £400 to the group from my very generous friends, family and neighbours. I headed off to St Davids rugby club for the Saturday 8am start.
Met by a Wales Air Ambulance volunteer taking the collections from riders as they turned up, I started to meet more of the group who had an open hand and a huge grin as we got ready for the sunny ride North on the first leg. Owen and the group took every pit stop opportunity to take donations from random strangers, garage and café cashiers along the way. No one was safe!
After spending the night in a hotel near Wrexham, I was even quizzed by a bloke in the breakfast queue asking if we were heading to the TT. When I told him we were riding for Wales Air Ambulance, he immediately started patting down his pockets and finding no cash, got his phone out to make an online donation whilst his two boys were left waiting for their sausages. This guy was a fellow biker and true to form, jumped straight in to help.
Sunday morning was wet and dull, but nothing could dampen the spirits of the group as we headed out on day two of the ride back to St Davids rugby club some eight hours later and thankfully drier than we had been all day!
With as much mental totting up as could be done, there was an optimistic discussion that we may have raised at least six thousand pounds with hope that there could be more. But we’d have to wait until all donations and pledges had been honoured before we’d know for sure.
So a second ride was arranged for the 4th July to ride again as a group, to the Llanelli base of the Wales Air Ambulance, for the grand total to be revealed before we presented a large comedy cheque to the volunteers and crew.
What a welcome we got from all on site…one of the crew had even flagged down an ice cream van and sent him to the base for us.
Eager to try and get photos of the aircraft and find out the total, we were whisked into the briefing room for a presentation and a chat. Like a TV competition cliff-hanger, the video screen lit up with “ Total Raised……” and paused for what seemed an eternity until it finally revealed the sum of £11,417 to a room full of open, speechless mouths!
Really?! Not bad for a Facebook group of bikers who didn’t know each other and just wanted to support a charity whilst sharing our love for riding.
I later asked Owen, how he decided on the Wales Air Ambulance as his chosen charity.
“Simple he said, as Steve and I were trying to decide which charity to support, the air ambulance flew right over my house! It was a sign.”
The Wales Air Ambulance fleet of ‘Four Dragons’ is the most advanced in Europe and is the UK’s first service to bring A&E to the sick and injured, performing lifesaving procedures out in the field.
Needing £6.5 million in charitable donations each year to stay operational, this vital service is here for all of us, not just bikers.
If you wish to donate or even create your own fundraising event for Wales Air Ambulance, visit their website for ideas and information.
And me? Looks like I’ve made some great new friends.
For Laura x
This story is part of the Life Seeker newspaper