A group of determined cyclists set off on a trek across the country to raise money for Blackpool FC’s former youth coach who was struck down with a devastating illness.
The Tour 4 Parky has already raised £2,000 to help towards physiotherapy, speech therapy and rehabilitation for Gary Parkinson, 45, who suffered a stroke in 2010 which led to him later being diagnosed with Locked-In Syndrome.
His son, Luke, organised a Blackpool to Middlesbrough charity bike ride, stopping at the football clubs Gary used to play for – Preston, Burnley, Bolton and his hometown of Middlesbrough.
The challenge will take four days.
Luke, 20, said: “It started as going from Blackpool to Middlesbrough, but then it escalated to take in the other clubs.
“We’ve got 19 people taking part, and hopefully it will be a good experience.”
Even Luke’s younger sister, Sophie, nine, is taking part, though she won’t complete the full 168-mile course.
Luke said: “We’re already seeing real progress in dad thanks to his treatment and we want to be able to keep that going so events like this are important.
“For everyone to get involved like this is really good.
“It’s a proud achievement, but it’s raising money for my dad which is the main thing.”
Locked-In Syndrome is a condition in which a patient is aware and awake but cannot move or communicate verbally.
Gary’s wife, Deborah, 45, said the family, which also includes 16-year-old Chloe, was enjoying having Gary back at their Bolton home after more than two years in hospital.
She said: “He’s settling in well.
“It’s taken a while to get everything right and established with carers and other people in the house but it’s nice for the family to all be in one place again and enjoy meal times together. Gary was always very active and he was a full on dad so it’s frustrating for him to see what’s going on – he wants to take part.
“But he’ll be with them in spirit.”
Deborah said she was proud of her son for setting up the event, which began yesterday.
“What Luke and the team have done is tremendous,” she said.
Support them at www.garyparky.co.uk.
Alan and Sharon Hebron are from Stockton, and are season ticket holders for Middlesbrough Football Club, where Gary Parkinson began his adult football career.
They had heard about the Tour 4 Parky cycle from Blackpool to Middlesbrough through the football club, and decided to take part in the challenge.
They travelled down to Blackpool on Wednesday evening, and were facing the blustering wind at Bloomfield Road as they set off on the first leg of the tour yesterday.
Sharon, 43, said: “We wanted a fitness challenge.
“We signed up about five months ago and we’ve done some training.
“I’m a bit nervous, but I think once we get going it’ll be easier.”
Alan, 37, said he was prepared for day one to be the worst.
Other riders are from Northampton and Watford. The five football clubs, Blackpool, Preston, Burnley, Bolton and Middlesbrough, have pledged their support.