Monday, 12 October 2009

WHY? WHAT? & WHEN? Gary's story

Ever since I announced that I will be cycling across Vietnam, people have kept asking me, "What! Why Vietnam? Why you doing it?"

What are we going to do?

My son and I are going to cycle across Vietnam to raise money for the unit that helped him walk again. We'll be cycling approximately 640km in an attempt to raise £10,000 for the children’s ward at Stoke Mandeville's Spinal Unit.

Why am I doing it?

Well, my reasons are simple. A few years ago, I went through the worst few months of my life as I watched my son - who was the cheekiest little sod and always on the go, suddenly have his life as he knew it completely stopped dead. Suddenly, after a seemingly minor accident, he was paralysed from the mid chest area down and top surgeons were telling me that he wasn’t expected to improve.

After that, I was the most excited man in the world when I saw the smallest twitch of one of his toes. He always was a head strong boy and, unlike me, never accepted that he was never going to walk.

Well, after meeting the staff on the children’s ward at Stoke Mandeville's Spinal Unit, I instantly changed my mind. The energy and belief they have is endless. I’ve been in dozens of hospitals and that ward is unlike any I’ve ever been in. It doesn’t feel like a hospital ward at all. It doesn’t look like one, and they don’t treat you like faceless patients - they really do want to give you every chance to get the best from your situation.

They listened to me and Christopher's mum and found out about him as an individual, and not just the next patient in a long line of patients. I was blown away with the dignity they gave Christopher and us. They encouraged Christopher to push himself and after an amazingly short time he was doing tricks in his wheel chair. he even managed to make it down to the pub, two miles down the road from the hospital (and boy did we get an ear bashing about that from the ward manager for that one!).

After a few long months Christopher walked out of the hospital against all the odds and beliefs of even the top specialists. We were in the Spinal Unit's cafĂ© one day when we were joined by Sir Jimmy Saville (who had tea and toast). If you don't already know, the spinal unit wouldn't be what it is without the help of Sir Jimmy who has raised millions for them. At that point, I promised I’d raise money to help repay the debt we felt we had to this special place. Not that I could ever put a price on the fact that Christopher can not only now walk but also join me on this massive challenge.

Why Vietnam?

Those who know me best will know that I like to take a plunge with both feet and this time I certainly have. To cycle across Vietnam is the biggest challenge I could find to honour the efforts Christopher and the staff of the spinal unit put in. The journey would be a challenge for anyone, but particularly for me as I don't even have a bike, not have I been on one for 20 years! I am unfit and overweight, so this is a big challenge to every part of me and my lifestyle.

As soon as Christopher learned about the event, (surprise, surprise) he announced that he wanted to come along, too. This will be a massive challenge for him.


Well we have 12 months to do this. We'll be setting off on 30th October 2010 and completing our journey on 11th November 2010. I will be getting my bike next week and will be putting together a training programme. Then it's a case of getting on my bike and getting fit. Christopher will also be training hard but even after all he's been through, he still has a head start on me, being loads younger and a bit fitter...

How you can help

Raising £10,000 is no small target. In the coming days, we'll be posting a link to our Just Giving page where you can make donations. Every penny will help. This blog will also be the place to visit for info on forthcoming fund raising events leading up to our trip, so please subscribe to make sure you stay in the loop.


  1. Good on you Gary.

    It will be a huge task but having seen your drive and focus when you set out to achieve something I know you'll succeed.

    Good luck to both you and Christopher.


  2. Fantastic Gary! What a story and what a wonderful way to show that anything is possible. I'll re-post this on my blog and ask everyone to support you. All I ask is that you never show me any pictures of you in lycra cycling shorts!!

  3. Thank you Ann
    but you wanna see me in me shorts really i Bet yaah

  4. Great cause, good Luck to both of you

  5. Best of luck to you both, Gary - what an amazing story!

  6. This is great Gary - I did some work at Stoke Manderville many years ago and still remember the amazing work they do. Best of luck and look forward to hearing your progress.

  7. Better get training Gary!
    As I have said to you many times before, let me know how I (and George Hay) can support you (over and above pledging money)

  8. I am so full of admiration for you. You don't do things by halves, do you?

  9. We are so proud of you and your commitment to such a fantastic cause, anyone who has had any involvement with Stoke Mandeville, in any capacity, will know what great work they do. Howeve, I also want to join the "no pictures of Lycra Shorts" set!!! xxx

  10. You can soooo do this Gary, and what a story from Christopher - brung tears.

    Any support from me count on it


  11. Brilliant project Gary - I so admire you and Christopher. Fantastic luck and look forward to talking to you as to how Fallowfields can help.

  12. Wow. I heard about your BRAVE trip but hadn't read the story behind it till now. Your son is one courageous young man, and you must be off your rocker but all the best to you! Will definitely bung you some money before the day.