Marlow Red Kite Ride


Marlow Red Kite Ride


Paul Horta-Hopkins


The Marlow Red Kite Ride sportive is raising money for Cyclists Fighting Cancer.


The Marlow Red Kite Ride is a relative newcomer to the world of sportives, with four route options, all the usual route signage and well-stocked feed stations. Organised by local cycle club the Marlow Riders, they have managed to create a successful event – it has sold out every year, which has prompted the organisers to raise the field to seven hundred – that also raises money for charity.


This year’s nominated charity is Cyclists Fighting Cancer again. Last year the Marlow Red Kite Ride raised £5000 for the charity. CfC was chosen because of its use of cycling to help children and young people living with cancer across the UK to regain their physical fitness, strength and confidence by giving them new bikes, adapted trikes, tandems, other equipment and support.


Riders on last year's Marlow Red Kite  Sportive. Photo courtesy of Sportive Photo

Riders on last year’s Marlow Red Kite Sportive. Photo courtesy of Sportive Photo


One of the beneficiaries of the Marlow Red Kite Ride was Niamh Dunwoody, the family’s story is outlined below and is a great example of how CfC puts the money it raises to good use.


On the face of it the Dunwoody family, from Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire, are an ordinary hard-working happy and close-knit family. Dad Dave is an Automotive Warranty Specialist, Mum Helen works as a Play Leader at an infants school. Their two children, Niamh and Liam, are school age, and their family is complete with two pet guinea pigs.


But 10 years ago, in August 2005, their world was turned upside down when three year-old Niamh Dunwoody was rushed to hospital having been diagnosed with a brain tumour. “We knew that something wasn’t right beforehand,” said Helen. “it turned out that the tumour was the size of a golf ball.”


“We recognised that she had some problems with her balance. She just kept bumping into things,” added Dave. “Initially it was mis-diagnosed and it wasn’t until she had a cat scan that the tumour was revealed. Suddenly Niamh was taken straight to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford for surgery,” said Helen.


The surgery removed the initial tumour but Niamh had lost her speech and her ability to walk. She would have to learn critical life skills all over again. Four sessions of chemotherapy and 31 sessions of radiotherapy followed over a six month period, in order to stop the cancer spreading.


Worse was to follow. The treatment had severely reduced her immune system so she had to be kept away from all possible infections. But on one of the visits to hospital Niamh contracted an infection which left her very poorly. “I clearly remember. It was near Christmas and it was a very difficult time,” Helen added.


But it was to be the turning point in her recovery, a recovery that is ongoing as she continues to fight the effects of such a trauma at a young age. Niamh is now 13 and a happy and confident child, but due to the area of the tumour she still has coordination and balance problems and goes to a special needs school in nearby Beaconsfield. “She never complains. She just accepts everything. She never asks why she doesn’t have any hair – in fact she wants to become a hairdresser! “added Helen.


Recovery sometimes has seemed painfully slow but one of the big steps Niamh took was when she was nine and received a gift from the charity Cyclists Fighting Cancer. The gift was a specially adapted tricycle. Niamh loved it and it suddenly became a gift of a new-found freedom.


“We couldn’t believe it when we got the call. Mike from the charity came down with it. It was so special to see our little child going up and down the road on her first bike”, said Helen. “Now, suddenly she had some independence. She had confidence. It helped her from a physical point of view.”


Niamh hits the road on her first trike, bought with funds raised by the Marlow Red Kite Ride

Niamh hits the road on her first trike, bought with funds raised by the Marlow Red Kite Ride


Mike Grisenthwaite is the founder and CEO of Cyclists Fighting Cancer, a charity dedicated to helping children and young people across the UK whose lives have been affected by cancer by providing specially adapted bikes and tricycles. He said: “Niamh couldn’t wait to get going as soon as we arrived. It’s rewarding to see the simple effect of what a difference it can make to children’s lives.


“We’ve now delivered 2,500 of these bikes or trikes and they do make a difference. Hundreds of studies have shown the numerous benefits cancer survivors receive from exercising. Rest is not best in most cases.”


Niamh eventually outgrew her beloved trike. But due to the efforts of all those who entered last year’s Marlow Red Kite Ride, earlier this year she was able to receive a new larger trike from Cyclists Fighting Cancer. It has allowed the family to plan for summer trips to parks and quieter roads where Niamh can continue to build her strength and fitness.


As the years passed a new trike was acquired for Niamh

As the years passed a new trike was aquired for Niamh


Helen added: “We’re so grateful to everyone who entered last year’s Red Kite Ride and for supporting this wonderful charity and we hope that other little children will be able to benefit from the efforts of this year’s event.”


The Marlow Red Kite Ride will be held on Sunday September 6th and will feature four routes through the Chilterns and Thames Valley, ranging from fifty, eighty, one hundred and a new for 2015 one hundred and twenty-six mile route. Four feed stations will keep you going through this land of “Midsomer Murders” and “Vicar of Dibley” while raising money for a good cause.


Marlow Red Kite Ride


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