Meet the chain gang… Richard Hewitt and Tom Taylor, second right, with fellow members of the Sugarcane Velo Club, from left, Michael Brammall, Gavin Beaumont, Jason Goulty and Michael Abonyi
Gray & Adams Operations Manager Tom Taylor is set to embark on a 430-mile cycle marathon to raise funds for a former colleague who suffered devastating injuries in a mountain bike accident.
Tom, who leads the shopfloor team at the leading refrigerated truck trailer and bodybuilder’s Doncaster factory, will be joined on the three-day epic by four team-mates from the town’s Sugarcane Velo Club.
The route will take them from Gray & Adams’ headquarters at Fraserburgh, north of Aberdeen, via another of the company’s production facilities in Dunfermline, and back to their home town.
Richard Hewitt had worked at Gray & Adams plant as a fitter for more than 20 years when tragedy struck last year. He was out riding with his brother when he lost control of his bike and was thrown over the handlebars.
The crash left Richard with a badly damaged spine, as a result of which he has lost the use of his arms and legs, and now uses a wheelchair. He is undergoing regular physiotherapy treatment but doctors are unable to say how much movement he might eventually recover, or how long it will take.
Nine months after the accident Richard, who is married with a 19-year-old daughter, still spends weekdays at Doncaster’s Tickhill Road Hospital because he cannot afford to make the necessary adaptations at the family home.
“I can’t reach the bathroom and bedrooms, because they’re upstairs,” he explains. “I get home at weekends but all I can have is a bed wash, and it makes life very difficult for all concerned. We really need a ground-floor extension with a bedroom and bathroom but that’s going to cost more than £20,000, which is a great deal of money.”
Former colleagues at Gray & Adams, Doncaster, have now rallied round and launched a campaign to raise cash that will help to fund the necessary conversions to the property in the town’s Skellow district, where Richard and his family have lived for more than 20 years.
Says Tom: “Richard was one of the best workers we’ve had, very reliable and popular with his colleagues. So he’s a real loss to the business.
“All of those who knew him at Gray & Adams are keen to do what we can to help. We’ve also had some very generous pledges of support from suppliers while my cycling club team-mates have been raising funds too – one of them, Jason Goulty works for Greencore Group, a customer of ours.”
A keen cyclist and regular competitor in time trial events, Tom is under no illusions about the scale of the challenge that he and his pals are taking on.
“The longest ride I’ve ever done in a single day is 132 miles, but we’re aiming to complete 168 miles on day one – if we average 18 mph that’s nearly nine and a half hours in the saddle, and then we have another 262 miles to cover over the next couple of days.
“But we’re confident that we’ll be able to complete the ride. I remember some years ago being asked by one of our directors whether I thought I could cycle from Fraserburgh to Doncaster. I’ve never had a good reason to try it… until now.”
And Richard adds: “I’m overwhelmed and very grateful to Tom, his team-mates, and all of my former colleagues at Gray & Adams for their support.”
The team will set off from Fraserburgh on Saturday morning (4th May). Anyone wishing to sponsor Tom and his colleagues can do so by contacting Samantha Hogg at Gray & Adams, Doncaster on 01302 787755 or [email protected]