Nurse bikes 3,200 miles to all UK children’s hospices for charity

A pediatric nurse will travel over 3,200 miles in the 70 days to every children’s hospice in the UK to raise over £500,000 to support their work.

Rancheska Lennon of Chanies, Buckinghamshire, will begin her tour of 54 UK children’s hospices in Oxford on 20 June, coinciding with the start of Children’s Hospice Week (20-26 June).

The 35-year-old, who hadn’t ridden a bike since childhood before organizing this event, will then embark on a route that will take her across the UK via Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Cambridge, Sheffield, Belfast, Scotland and more.

She aims to finish on August 28, averaging 46 miles a day.

At the start of her trial, each children’s hospice in the UK will show their support by completing 54 minutes of cycling or any wheel-related activity such as wheelchair racing or trolleybuses to support Ms Lennon – a minute to represent each centre.

After working in the NHS for 10 years before moving into the children’s hospice sector, Ms Lennon told the PA news agency that she had “first-hand” experience of what children and their families go through and what support hospices offer.

“Before I moved to children’s hospice, I didn’t really know what they were doing. And then when I moved, I just suddenly realized how much support they offer and how few people know about what they are doing,” she said.

“I am in a very privileged position to be able to be with them on their journey and support them through the most difficult moments of their lives that most people don’t see.

“I wanted to find a way to share this with people and show what families go through and then what children’s hospices are doing to support them.”

Children’s hospices in the UK care for more than 99,000 seriously ill children and are 87% funded by charities, according to Children’s Hospices Across The UK (ChatUK), a charity founded by Ms Lennon.

ChatUK aims to educate people about the importance of the services provided by children’s hospices.

The funds raised by Ms. Lennon will go to Together for a Short Life, a palliative care charity for children.

Just four months before the start of the challenge, Ms Lennon experienced the loss of her close friend’s son Henry, who died of acute myeloid leukemia at the age of nine.

So she dedicated ChatUK to Henry and named her bike after him.

Ms Lennon said the UK is leading the way in developing children’s hospices – 12 in total in America, Canada and Australia – but is struggling to raise the funds needed to continue their vital work.

She started her training in May 2020, having not ridden a bike since she was a child, but thankfully her mother, who is more of a “regular cyclist”, helped her along.

“I used to run, but I knew it would take too long to run around all the hospices, so I had to come up with another way,” she said.

“My mom didn’t even let me get on the bike to begin with. So I got up at six in the morning to ride my bike on the path near my house so as not to be embarrassed.

Ms Lennon said she got the inspiration for her cycling competition after attending Ben Fogle’s talk on climbing Everest three years ago, adding that his phrase “find your Everest” stuck with her.

“It made me think that your life’s work doesn’t have to be about climbing Everest. It could be finding your own Everest,” Lennon said.

“Given that I didn’t actually have a bike and haven’t ridden one since I was a kid, it was definitely the Everest to get to where I am now.”

The Miss Lennon fundraiser can be found at justgiving.com/team/CHATUK.