Get on your bike to help sick children

Laura Devlin A bike ride through beautiful Norfolk woodland sounds like the perfect family day out this spring.

Laura Devlin

A bike ride through beautiful Norfolk woodland sounds like the perfect family day out this spring.

But getting in the saddle at Thetford Forest on May 18 could also help raise tens of thousands of pounds and make a massive difference to the region's families in need.

East Anglia's Children's Hospices (Each) is once again hosting its fundraising Ride For Life, sponsored by the Eastern Daily Press, and hopes this year's event - its 15th - will be bigger and better than ever.

The ride is open to everyone, regardless of age or experience, and gives cyclists the freedom of choosing a 10 or 25 mile route off-road around the forest, or a longer but even-surfaced 19 or 35 miles.

People can bring their own two wheels or hire a bike, or even walk or jog for three or nine miles and bring the dog along, too.

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Each and every penny from sponsorship will go directly towards Each's three hospices at nearby Quidenham, Milton, near Cambridge and Ipswich, which provide care support to sick children and their families.

Just £7.50 can pay for a day of meals for a child or family member at the hospice, while £105 can fund a session of family support before and after bereavement.

The charity relies on public donations for about 80pc of its required income of £4.9m a year.

This year's ride will have a special poignancy for Caz Wilkinson, who took part in her first ride about 10 years ago with husband Karl and their young son, Jack.

“Jack sat on the cross bar of his dad's bike,” she said.

“When he was old enough he wanted to do it on his own bike, so he asked to do the 25 miles in 2003, when he was nine. I said 'it's a long old way, sweetheart', but he wanted to do it.

“I asked Karl to take some rope so he could pull him along if need be, but Jack did it, he was amazing.”

Jack won an award that year for being the youngest to take part and in 2004 raised £425, the most sponsorship of any child of his age group.

But the following year, the cancer which had gone in to remission through much of his childhood came back and he was too ill to compete. He passed away in August, 2006, aged 12.

His grieving parents bravely took part last year and Caz said they will carry on with it “until we're old and doddery” because it was so important to them. Although the family never used Each while Jack was alive, they are now visited by the charity's family support team to help them cope with their bereavement.

Speaking of the ride, Caz added: “The atmosphere is absolutely fantastic, I'm always amazed to look around and see all these people that have got out on their bikes on a Sunday morning.

“It is so uplifting.”

The event has so far raised £500,000 and last year brought in £60,000.

Once registered, entrants are sent a rider/walker pack which includes official numbers, sponsor forms, a map and other information.

The event includes stalls, refreshments, a barbeque and entertainment.

Call 01953 715559 for an entry form or book online at