4th Dec, 2016

Annual Lions Raft Race to fund-raise for specialist bikes

Stratford Editorial 13th May, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THEY will be paddling for pedals during this year’s 40th anniversary Lions Raft Race.

Heart of England Mencap, which supports people with learning disabilities, is the main beneficiary for the race on July 24.

And the Stratford-based charity has announced Raft Race proceeds will boost fund-raising for specialist cycles and storage.

HofE Mencap currently has three trikes available and is looking to build a fleet.

A hand cycle would enable people in a wheelchair but with strength in their arms to experience to joy of cycling, while a side by side bike would provide extra pedal power for someone without the physical strength to cycle alone.

Purchased new, the bikes cost thousands, and the charity also needs a space to store them and a safe place for people to ride.

“The ultimate dream is a dedicated track, with storage on site plus parking, toilets and refreshment facilities,” said Heart of England Mencap fund-raising manager Cath Errington.

“We are in discussions as to potential locations for this – but of course none of it is possible without the funds being raised, and we are so grateful to the Lions for choosing our charity as the main beneficiary for this year’s Raft Race.

“We are a small charity – and this will make a huge difference to us and to the people we support.”

Before HofE Mencap began its bike project, a group from the charity travelled to the Forest of Dean to experience a day’s cycling and do a little research.

Among them were Emily, Brian, Royston and Russell, a group now enjoying pedalling back home in Warwickshire on Mencap’s Pashley trikes – and planning trips to the Greenway and Recreation Ground this summer.

The raft race will see teams of rafters paddling 7.5 miles down the Avon from Wasperton to Stratford, negotiating two weirs en route in their home-made crafts. Since it began in 1976, it has raised more than £750,000 for local charities.

Teams can still sign up.

Kelvin McIntosh, race committee chairman, said: “We have already had some early entries in – but we need more teams to sign-up for the challenge and help us make our 40th anniversary event the biggest ever.

“We guarantee a lot of fun, all the while knowing every penny you have raised in sponsorship will have a very real and direct impact on the life of a local person with a learning disability.”

Volunteers are also needed to help pull the rafts from the river at the end of the race.

Visit www.raftrace.org.uk for entry forms and further details.