| 9.5°C Belfast

Manchester Arena survivor joins friend in charity virtual handcycle ride

Martin Hibbert and Gary Dawson planned to cycle in Italy before the coronavirus crisis emerged.

Close

Gary Dawson, pictured, and Martin Hibbert will take part in a virtual bike ride of Tuscany for charity (Spinal Injuries Association/PA)

Gary Dawson, pictured, and Martin Hibbert will take part in a virtual bike ride of Tuscany for charity (Spinal Injuries Association/PA)

Gary Dawson, pictured, and Martin Hibbert will take part in a virtual bike ride of Tuscany for charity (Spinal Injuries Association/PA)

A survivor of the Manchester Arena bombing is to help the man who inspired him to rebuild his life by joining him in a virtual handcycling challenge for charity.

Martin Hibbert and Gary Dawson planned to cycle in Italy before the coronavirus crisis emerged but instead will raise funds for the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) on a 66-mile virtual route across Tuscany from their living rooms.

They first met when Mr Hibbert was recovering after suffering 22 shrapnel wounds in the May 2017 terror attack as he protected his daughter, who was also seriously injured, from the blast.

Close

Gary Dawson, who is cycling in a virtual handcycling challenge with Martin Hibbert (Spinal Injuries Association/PA)

Gary Dawson, who is cycling in a virtual handcycling challenge with Martin Hibbert (Spinal Injuries Association/PA)

PA

Gary Dawson, who is cycling in a virtual handcycling challenge with Martin Hibbert (Spinal Injuries Association/PA)

The explosion left him paralysed and unable to walk, which brought him into contact with Mr Dawson, who was himself paralysed in a motorbike accident and works with SIA to aid others to overcome their injuries.

Mr Hibbert said: “I met Gary on the day I was told I would never walk again. I quickly learnt from Gary that, despite having been told some devastating news, it didn’t stop be from leading a full life.

“To see Gary in a wheelchair and understanding that he was injured and has been through what I was going through, I decided that I didn’t want a wheelchair to determine what I was and was not going to do.

“Gary helped me, now I’m helping Gary. He supported me so much with my recovery after the explosion. It’s the least I can do.”

Each year Mr Dawson takes part in an overseas cycle ride to support other spinal cord injured people and said he was “gutted” when Covid-19 led to the cancellation of the Italy trip.

“But then I thought I’ll do it from my living room,” he said. “People paralysed by spinal cord injury need our help now more than ever.

It’ll be great to have Martin as my cycling partner and we hope to raise plenty of money to help other spinal cord injured people stay safe from coronavirusGary Dawson, Spinal Injuries Association

“Demand for the information, advice and support we offer has increased hugely and we’re keeping other injured people safe, well and out of hospital – saving lives and protecting the NHS.

“I am spinal cord injured myself and I therefore have an understanding of what Martin was going through. The progress he has made has been nothing short of remarkable.

“It’ll be great to have Martin as my cycling partner and we hope to raise plenty of money to help other spinal cord injured people stay safe from coronavirus.”

The pair will take on Thursday’s challenge on handcycles mounted on turbo trainers.

– A fundraising page has been set up at https://justgiving.com/fundraising/garyandmartincycleitaly

PA