Adele Wilkin hadn’t sat in the saddle since she was ten. Encouraged by a nurse at Bradford’s Marie Curie Hospice where her late mum Sheila Morris was treated, Adele decided pedal power would help her and her family raise vital cash needed to boost the charity’s funds.
Sheila benefited from day therapy and palliative care before her death, aged 73, in August 2011. Enticed by a poster advertising Marie Curie’s latest challenge, Adele and sisters Jeanette Sunderland, Sue Elliott, Claire Macina, and Sue’s daughter Stephanie, began training for the cycle ride of a lifetime – a 300-mile ride from the pink city in Jaipur to the Taj Mahal, India.
“I’d not been on a bike since I was a kid. I wasn’t into cycling at all but I got really into it,” says Adele.
Along with a group of friends, Adele, Claire, Jeanette, Sue and Stephanie embarked on Sunday morning cycle rides, gradually increasing their miles along the way.
Adele explains that the training regime sowed the seeds for their first fundraising venture – 100 women cycling 100 miles.
Cycling from Ilkley to Wetherby, York and back, the group raised £22,000, but the siblings’ proudest and possibly most emotional moment was seeing their mum waiting for them at the finish line following the challenge in July 2011 – the month before she died.
“It was an amazing achievement,” recalls Adele.
It also prepared the sisters, who also have a brother, Dave Morris, for their mammoth ride across India. “There were no roads, we were out in rural India and when we came into a village people would race across the fields. It was stepping out into the unknown,” recalls Adele, who recalls the satisfaction of completing the challenge along with sisters Jeanette and Claire and niece Stephanie. Sue had intended to do the challenge but broke her leg the night before they were bound for India!
“Mum always said we would not be the people we were if cancer had not happened to her because people get on board and they help and support you and fundraise and it is lovely,” says Adele.
Sheila battled with the disease for 17 years. Initially she was diagnosed with a brain tumour but the cancer subsequently spread. “And that is how we got involved with Marie Curie,” recalls Adele, who would often accompany her mum to her day therapy sessions.
Having completed the India cycle challenge, the sisters signed up for Marie Curie’s fundraiser the following year – a trek across the Grand Canyon in America.
“That was a totally different experience,” says Adele, referring to their descent through a 198ft waterfall. “We climbed through it and trekked out, camping and basic living. Three days of trekking – that was incredible.”
Adele says as well as boosting funds for Marie Curie, they also made lifelong friends. “Everybody who goes on these things have all lost somebody or know someone who has died – they all have this connection with Marie Curie.”
As well as participating in challenges for the charity, the family have also turned special occasions into fundraisers. Adele says birthdays have now become an opportunity to fundraise.
Sheila’s grandchildren have also participated in a mini Great North Run and they have also held pamper nights and burlesque evenings – all contributing to the staggering £70,000 the family have so far raised.
And now they are preparing for their latest fundraiser – a Ladies afternoon. The event is aimed at mums and daughters, grandmas and friends to get together for a pamper and shopping session from 1 until 3pm at the Highfield Hotel in Idle on Sunday, May 11.
Adele says they cannot thank the hospice enough for the care given to their Mum as well as the emotional support.
Although partly supported by the Government, the hospice relies significantly on fundraising. “So we are committed to giving back, so that other families benefit from this amazing care,” says Adele.