Paralympic star joins Great British NHS fundraiser

GB Paralympian Ian Marsden is taking time out of a gruelling training schedule for the Tokyo 2021 Games to back a national fundraising drive for NHS hospitals including Leighton in Crewe.

Paralympian Ian Marsden with Great British Rainbow Active Series organiser Michelle Vorel-Adams

The paracanoeist has joined a growing band of people looking to raise money and express their gratitude to hospital workers by taking part in the Great British Rainbow Active Series over the coming months.

The not-for-profit Series invites people of all ages and abilities to undertake a cycle ride, run or walk challenge for local hospitals each month and Ian, 49, who suffers from a rare motor neurone condition, is hand-cycling to raise money for the Royal Stoke University Hospital where he receives treatment.

Ian, who joins the British Paralympic team heading to Japan in August, was a champion powerlifter until he suffered a spinal injury in 1992. His condition was discovered while being treated.

He said: “Over the years I have received the greatest of care at the Royal Stoke and the Series offers people like me a chance to raise a bit of money and say thanks. It was tough being told ‘you will never walk again’ but exercise got me through. In my case it was hand-cycling. I would encourage everyone to get behind the Series and do what it takes to get them moving and helping the NHS.”

Leading the Series are local couple Michelle Vorel-Adams and Phil Fortun who staged a cycling marathon during the first national lockdown and raised £5000 for the Royal Stoke University Hospital where Michelle was treated for a life-threatening DVT.

Paralympian Ian Marsden with his son Josh and Great British Rainbow Active Series organisers Michelle Vorel-Adams and Phil Fortun

Michelle, appointed European Cycling Directeur for her efforts to promote cycling and wellbeing, said: “The Series is a fantastic opportunity for local people and companies to get behind a fundraiser that promotes physical activity while saying a big ‘thank you’ to local hospitals and those brave souls on the front-line at the height of the pandemic.

“It’s been months in the planning but in June, our first month of the Series, we already have people from all over the country registered and undertaking a personal challenge at their own pace. Each have their own back stories about why they want to support their local hospital and many are recovered Covid patients.

“We’re especially thrilled to have a celebrated sportsman like Ian taking part. He epitomises true British spirit and shows what can be achieved through sheer grit and determination. His support helps us raise the profile of what is a brand new national fundraiser. It’s lovely to see his son, Josh, joining him on his bike as we are keen to get the fitness message over to families.”

Michelle, is a former Assistant Director at Stoke City Council, is UK and Ireland President for ACES Europe – the Brussels-based European Capitals and Cities of Sport Federation charged with promoting physical activity and healthy living across more than 3,000 cities and four continents. In appointing her European Cycling Directeur, ACES paid tribute to Michelle’s ‘grit and determination’ and willingness to inspire others to cycle by sharing her own personal battle against illness. The honour came in the early part of the pandemic and while the nation was on its doorstep ‘clapping for carers’ Michelle came to the conclusion she wanted to do something more to show gratitude.

She added: “We have lived through a dreadful chapter in British history when the health of the nation has been in grave danger and we continue to live with the threat of coronavirus.

“Numbers have declined but there’s the fear of a third wave hanging over us and of course, many thousands are still fighting long Covid. A recent ONS survey points to at least one in five people suffering symptoms such as low mood and fatigue months after initial infection.

“The pandemic continues to shine a spotlight on how crucial it is to integrate physical activity into daily lives for wellbeing and a robust immune system. The bottom line is exercise supports health and if we can raise money for local NHS hospitals at the same time, then it’s a double whammy.”

The fundraising campaign asks participants to set a fitness challenge and raise money for the NHS hospital of their choice. There are medals and pin badges along the way and gift boxes when they register.

A wide range of high-profile sponsors are backing the Series including ACES Europe, Clif Bar, Fox’s Biscuits, Grand Tour Coffee Co, Le Col, Mornflake Mighty Oats, Presca Sportswear, Francesco Group, Moving Lives, Proper Cycling, QPS Print, The European Platform for Sport Innovation (EPSI), The Women’s Tour and WKG Sports.

Register online.