A 340-mile bike ride around Europe by Richard Stocker and two friends has pulled in more than £1,500 for the charity which supported his 14-year-old son through three open-heart operations.
Last Thursday the trio set off from London and returned on Sunday after taking in Harwich, the Hook of Holland, Bruges, Calais and Ashford.
Richard, 42, of Charmind Walk, brother-in-law Mick Stone, 50, from Ringwood, and work colleague Andy Carver, 49, from West Bromwich, were raising money for Children’s Heart Foundation.
The national heart charity has been supporting Lewis Stocker, 14, a pupil at Isambard Community School who suffers aortic stenosis, a condition where his aortic valve has narrowed and restricts blood flow.
“It’s been sore on the legs,” said Richard, who works as a mobile operations manager for Network Rail.
“The worst part was the last day over the North Downs, where some of the hills are intense, even though we trained for this for the past four or five months.”
Punctures and the elements played havoc with the threesome’s journey.
Richard said the opening 45 miles between London and Harwich were dogged with rain and six punctures between them.
Richard said they were unprepared to take any risks with night-time cycling, especially on the Continent, and so they left their hotel each morning before 8am, hoping to clock up to reach 95 miles before the day was out.
Lewis was in all of their thoughts each and every mile, Richard said.
“Lewis wanted to do part of the ride with us as well,” said Richard. “But he had major surgery around 18 months ago and he continues his recovery.
“He had his annual check-up this week and had complained of one or two chest pains.
“He has been asked to return in six months rather than wait for another 12, as a precaution.
“He was always in my mind on the ride. We were always talking about him between spells on the bike.
“He has had three open-heart surgeries before the age of 14 and several other minor surgeries, but he takes it all in his stride.
“He always tells us there’s someone worse off than him.”
Lewis’s older sister, Frankie, 15, has also benefitted from the work done by CHF as the work done by the charity supports the whole family and not just the child struggling with heart issues.
“When children are faced with health issues their siblings can quite often get pushed to one side, but the charity is always asking about Frankie and seeing if she wants to come on one of the workshops for patients and parents,” he said.