Olympian Sally Gunnell Joins 300 Cyclists To Raise Funds For Local Hospices

On Sunday 7 May, 330 people took part in a brand new cycling event ‘Hit the Downs MTB’, organised by local hospices, St Barnabas House in Worthing and Chestnut Tree House – the children’s hospice for East Sussex, West Sussex and South East Hampshire.

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From individuals to cycling clubs and corporate teams, people of all ages and backgrounds took part in the event, including Chestnut Tree House Patron, Sally Gunnell, and the CEO of St Barnabas House and Chestnut Tree House, Hugh Lowson.

Riders opted for either a 20 or 40-mile route, which started and ended within the grounds of Windlesham House School. The first riders set off just after 7.15am, and started arriving back mid-morning, with the final participants passing the finish line just after 3pm.

Jacob Garrod, 32, cycled 40 miles to raise money for St Barnabas House in memory of his father, Andrew Garrod, who received end of life care the hospice having suffered from lung cancer. The Ford resident is a keen mountain biker and has raised £380 in sponsorship so far for the hospice.

Jacob Garrod said: “It was hard work. Some of the climbs were pretty horrendous but I didn’t get off and push. It was a brilliant event with an amazing route. Some of the scenery was stunning. It was a little bit chilly up on the top but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“My dad, Andrew Garrod, spent his last week in St Barnabas House and I was doing it in memory of him. The people at the hospice are amazing and the staff were fantastic so I thought I’d try to raise a bit of money for them and so far I have raised £380 which I’m really chuffed with and hopefully some more will come as well.”

Peter Roberts signed up for the event to raise money for Chestnut Tree House, and cycled the 20-mile route in memory of his daughter, Izzi, who sadly passed away last year. Hit the Downs MTB was Peter’s first fundraiser for Chestnut Tree House, and he has exceeded his £200 fundraising target by raising over £600 so far for the charity.

Peter Roberts said, “Chestnut Tree House is a fabulous cause and something very close to my heart. The care team there were such a great help to our family during Izzi’s illness and afterwards. I’m personally grateful to all the cyclists who took part in Hit the Downs MTB and those who sponsored them, as the charity needs as much support as we can give. I really enjoyed the event and hope to take part in more in the future.”

All riders were fitted with a chip timer, and the fastest times were 1 hour 45 minutes for 20 miles and 3 hours 40 minutes for the 40-mile route.

Lucy Bone, Events and Campaigns Fundraiser for St Barnabas and Chestnut Tree House said: “We were delighted with the turn out for Hit the Downs MTB, and feel honoured that so many people chose to fundraise for us. Both hospices rely heavily on the generosity and support of the local community so that they can continue to provide all their specialist care services, which makes events like this invaluable.

“We would like to thank all the cyclists who took part, but also the supporters and volunteers who helped out. It was an exciting day, with lots of happy and proud faces at the finish line. Sponsorship money is still coming in but we hope to raise around £20,000 for each hospice, which will cover three days of all care services provided by Chestnut Tree House and 12 days of Day Hospice care at St Barnabas House.

Hugh Lowson, CEO of St Barnabas House and Chestnut Tree House, said: “I very much enjoyed taking part in our inaugural Hit the Downs MTB event. I did the ride to support the charity I work for. The work we do is really important and government funding is so small that we need events like this to support us. I’m really pleased that so many people turned up to support us and it was a really special day.”