Co Antrim man David Charles completed ten long-distance cycle rides across Northern Ireland
A loving father who took on ten marathon cycle rides in memory of his daughter has raised almost £25,000 for a stillborn charity.
Doting dad-of-two David Charles presented stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands with a cheque for £24,494 last week.
The accountant from Doagh, Co Antrim, completed the ten daunting long-distance rides in December last year but kept his fundraising pages open as the donations continued to flow.
He told Sunday Life of his joy at completing the challenge and keeping the memory of daughter Rachel alive.
David (44) said: “It’s been brilliant! What an absolute pleasure to have cycled so many miles and raised so much money for a good charity.
“It’s been nice as well, throughout the course of the challenges, to be able to keep Rachel’s name alive in some ways. She was talked about a lot and it’s been great being able to keep her memory alive in that way.
“Sands were so good to us — and continue to be — so it was nice to be able to give back to them as well.
“We raised just under £25,000, but we never really had a target. It just exploded into something much bigger than what we ever envisioned it would be.
“I did the first one around Lough Neagh last autumn and at the end of it there were a few people wanting to get involved and join me on the second cycle. It just sort of snowballed from there.
“Every time I did a cycle someone new would join the team and start fundraising. We had quite a few people who joined us along various parts of the journey. I’d like to thank them too. It was amazing and I’m so grateful.
“Sands had another charity cycle event last Saturday in Larne and I handed over the big cheque for £24,494, which was a lovely feeling.”
David took up the challenge last year to mark ten years since he and wife Claire lost their baby daughter Rachel, who was stillborn in 2010.
He took on ten long-distance rides across Northern Ireland, completing the final, 60-mile course on December 31 last year, with each mile of the race dedicated to a baby lost at birth.
Despite being pleased to have finished the challenge, David said the emotions at the end were reflective rather than celebratory.
He continued: “It was such a strange sensation. In some ways I was just relieved I had actually done it, because I had committed so much to it over the last few years.
“It was a bit sad too, because I had invested so much of my time into it and I felt a bit like, ‘What do I do now?’
“We didn’t have much of a celebration. It sort of came to a wee quiet end in December when I did a 60-mile cycle in memory of 60 babies.
“People had donated in memory of their baby or a child they knew and we dedicated each one of those miles to babies lost to stillbirth.
“It was a nice thing to do, but at the end we didn’t go the way of having a party or a celebration.”
The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (or Sands) helps families across the UK who are bereaved by stillbirth.
A dad to daughters Emily (12) and Naomi (9), David has said previously that the journey he and his wife went on with Rachel, their middle child, was the most difficult thing the couple have ever experienced.
He told Sunday Life in August last year he wanted to raise the profile of Sands, as well as raising money for the charity.
Having successfully achieved those goals he is now looking forward to cycling for fun.
He added: “I’m still cycling, but I suppose I am enjoying not having the pressure of fundraising any more. I’ll probably do something again in the future, but I think I’ve exhausted my fundraising capacity for a little while.
“I’m doing a couple of personal challenges this year, but I will probably just enjoy cycling for pleasure without having to fundraise and promote.
“I’ve squeezed my fundraising on Facebook as far as I can for now, I think, so it’ll just be cycling for fun.
“Who knows, in the future I probably will do something similar again, maybe a John o’ Groats to Lands End or Malin Head to Mizen Head. We’ll see. I haven’t committed to anything just yet.”