TWENTY-FOUR years ago, Martin Vandervelde made a promise that he would raise £100,000 for Prospect Hospice.
The retired tailor, now 77, kept to his word and yesterday a special reception was held at the Wroughton hospice to recognise his achievements, which have seen him raise more than £102,000.
The impressive sum was raised mainly through sponsored cycling expeditions with friends, which have taken him all over the world.
And each time he has got on his bike, he has raised more money than the previous fundraiser. His final challenge, which took place in the Canarian island of Fuerteventura in January, saw him raise more than £7,000.
He said: “I have proved that you don’t have to be particularly young to do physical challenges.
“I was dreadful at sports at school, which is one of the reasons I took up cycling as a boy. I was useless at football, cricket, running, I couldn’t swim until I was about 14 and even now I can only just about swim a length.
“I couldn’t jump long or high, I couldn’t putt the shot – all the things boys were supposed to be able to do I was dreadful at, and they made fun of me.
“In my school report it would always say I tried my best, but in my sports class it would say I just didn’t try.
“I remember challenging my sportsmaster to a 100-mile bike ride one day but he turned me down and I didn’t respect him after that.”
Martin’s challenges have seen him cycle through every county in England, from Northumbria to Cornwall, every county in Wales and the Republic of Ireland and half of the counties in Scotland and Ireland. In his early days, he would regularly cycle 800 miles a fortnight. He has also cycled in France, Spain, the Czech Republic and other countries, and has repeatedly tackled the Land’s End to John O’Groats route.
He first set himself the £100,000 fundraising target when his late sister-in-law was cared for in a hospice.
Prospect Hospice chief executive Angela Jordan said: “Martin has dedicated a considerable number of years to fundraising for us and it is extraordinary to keep up that sort of passion for something over that length of time.
“We could never do what we do without people like Martin – it costs £5.1m to run the hospice every single year and we only get 27 per cent of that money from people like the NHS, all the rest comes from our fundraisers.
“It is extraordinary really to think how generous the people of Swindon are.”