More than 1,300 cyclists endured a 10 mile bike ride through central London this weekend, in aid of the charity Help for Heroes, paying tribute to Drummer Lee Rigby, who was killed in Woolwich on 22nd May, wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt.
The Horse Guards Parade marked the finish line for the Hero Ride on Sunday 2nd June, yet the ride was the culmination of a number of sponsored bike rides across the UK and Europe, which are collectively on course to raise over £1 million for the charity.
In the lead up to Sunday’s finale, 15 wounded Service personnel and veterans cycled 423 miles from Edinburgh into London. The Big Battlefield Bike Ride was also part of the event, where a 300 strong group of cyclists rode over 350 miles from Paris to London, through the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars.
Huge crowds lined the end of the route in front of Buckingham Palace. The biggest cycling show of support for military personnel received support from sporting heroes, celebrities and royalty. Among participants in the event were cycling champion, Mark Cavendish, and ex-serviceman, singer, James Blunt. The Duchess of Cambridge paid tribute to the riders during a visit to Paris last week.
The most important participants of course were those who led the Hero Ride: the 150 wounded veterans and Service personnel from the UK, USA and Canada. Help for Heroes co-founder Bryn Parry best described “the incredible sight at the front [of] all our soldiers who have been injured, who have lost limbs, there are guys who have lost one leg, double amputees, some with both legs missing and an arm missing and still here, on hand-bikes even”. Indeed the event demonstrated the determined characteristics of both our injured servicemen and women, and the generous public who took part.
However, the poignancy of Lee Rigby’s death was at the forefront of many participants minds. Parry also acknowledged that despite Help for Heroes organising a bike ride every year since 2007, this year’s was the biggest, stating “But the poignancy of Lee’s death, the fact he was wearing one of our shirts, the number of people who have volunteered to support us. It’s brought it home to people to have a death on our own streets.”
Notably, in the days following the tragic death of Drummer Lee Rigby, the Help for Heroes website crashed as donations flooded in. Hundreds wanting to pay their respects have also visited the makeshift memorial which quickly developed outside the entrance to the Woolwich Barracks.
The money raised by this event will support those who have been injured while serving for the Armed Forces. Help for Heroes provides individual support for our soldiers, ensuring that they are not forgotten on their return to service. The charity offers financial support and a lifelong support network for heroes and their loved ones. In the past five years, the charity has opened four recovery centres for wounded service personnel.
Gareth Golightly, an ex-serviceman who participated in the Hero Ride, lost his leg while in the army and used his hands to cycle the 423 miles from Scotland to London. He described how the charity has helped him come out of himself and return to the “person I used to be”.
This fundraising event is just one of the many organised by Help for Heroes which continue to translate into support for our troops.
To donate to Help for Heroes please visit www.helpforheroes.org.uk