Mansfield insurance broker Paul Hopewell and his Olympic medallist coach, Bryan Steel, will attempt their epic 240 mile in 24 hours this weekend to raise funds for Mansfield’s King’s Mill Hospital specialist baby unit.
Paul Hopewell has set himself a target of £2,400 then doubled it to £4,800, the cost of a new ventilation unit for the Specialist Baby Unit, where his son was cared for 15 years ago.
Now he is overwhelmed by people’s generosity as that figure has been exceeded and is pushing the target ever upwards. His ride will end in Sheffield, which he hopes to reach in by early Sunday morning.
To get ready for the challenge, and give himself a fighting chance, 45 year old Paul has been in training for six months with Olympic silver and bronze medal winning pursuit cyclist Bryan Steel, who will accompany him on the gruelling 240 mile ride.
Bryan Steel says: “This is an Olympic level challenge. Most Olympians have over 4 years to train but Paul has done this in just 6 months and after much blood, sweat and tears he is ready.” It will also be a considerable challenge for Bryan, who has never cycled this distance either.
There will be 22 other cyclists (a total of 24 cyclists) helping as pacemakers, and providing energy conserving slipstreams, in six-man relays during each of the four 60 mile stages of the mammoth ride.
The significance of the recurring 24 is that a baby born at 24 weeks is considered viable, with the right support and equipment. Paul’s son Ryan, born prematurely at 27 weeks weighed just 2lb at birth and was looked after in the special care unit for three months. Paul hopes to raise general awareness of this particular service, as well as raise funds for the King’s Mill Specialist Baby Unit. Around 54,000 babies are born premature each year and over 17,000 need intensive care, with 4,000 delivered at under 28 weeks needing prolonged stays in special units. King’s Mill hospital is one of 228 units in the UK offering neonatal intensive care, high dependency or special care.
Paul, a senior healthcare partner with The Health Insurance Group, is cycling from the firm’s Southampton head office to their office in Sheffield and is still looking for more sponsors.
He explains; “This is a cause very close to my heart. The specialist equipment and dedicated staff saved my son Ryan and perform the same miracle for other parents on a regular basis. The more we can raise, the more babies they will be able to help. We have already raised enough for the ventilation unit, the next target is a MP5 monitor for the special care nursery in the neo natal ward.”
To support Paul, go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/giving and click on ‘sponsor a friend’.