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War vet (95) cycling 180km to boost charity set up by his late granddaughter to build a school in Uganda

He is Northern Ireland’s answer to the late Captain Tom Moore, a 95-year-old world war veteran taking on an amazing challenge for charity.

Co Down’s Jim Copeland can barely walk but on his exercise bike, he is steadily cycling through all the towns of his life in a mammoth 180km fundraiser.

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Jim using his rollator

Jim using his rollator

Jim using his rollator

A retired baker, who served in the Home Guard during the Second World War, Jim relies on a walking frame to get about.

He started his challenge in August and at a steady pace of two to three kilometres a day, is pushing himself to the limit for a cause which is close to his heart.

Jim is raising funds in memory of his late granddaughter Charlene Barr to boost a charity she set up in the months before she died in October 2010.

Charlene, a Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland award-winner, was in hospital waiting on a life-saving double lung transplant when she set up Charlene’s Project in 2008.

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Charlene with one of the African children she wanted to help get an education

Charlene with one of the African children she wanted to help get an education

Charlene with one of the African children she wanted to help get an education

She had visited Uganda with her family the year before and was so moved by the poverty that she launched a fund in the last months of her life to build a primary school.

Charlene managed to raise an incredible £120,000 but sadly never got to see the school she built as she passed away in October 30, 2010, aged just 20.

Her family — dad Dickie, a GP, mum Janice and siblings David, Rebecca, Natalie, Bethany and Serena — carried on her vision.

They now want to build a secondary school so that the children Charlene helped can continue their education.

And after Covid hit fundraising hard, Jim, who recently moved to Lurgan to live with Charlene’s parents, decided to step in to help.

An active man before the pandemic who played bowls daily, inactivity during lockdown has left him barely able to walk.

As well as raising as much funds as he can to help build the secondary school in Uganda, he is also hoping to get a spring back in his step.

He says: “During this pandemic people like me were locked in our own houses. I was fairly active before it and played bowls every day.

“With being on my own I sat around too much and as a result my legs got weaker and I fell a few times. I could hardly walk out the door.

“I needed medical attention and am still on painkillers and get around with the help of a rollator.

“Now that I am living with my daughter Janice and her family I want to get back to full strength again.

“At the end of it I hope to feel stronger and fitter than I am now.

“I also wanted to raise funds for Charlene’s Project because if Charlene was able to do what she did for children in Uganda, then I could do my little bit.

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Jim with a photo of his beloved granddaughter Charlene

Jim with a photo of his beloved granddaughter Charlene

Jim with a photo of his beloved granddaughter Charlene

“Charlene was an inspiration. There is a lot of her story people don’t know, she was a very brave little girl.

“Lying in that hospital bed needing two lungs to save her life she thought there were people worse off than she was which is why she started her fund.

“She was amazing, really amazing.”

Jim started his marathon cycle in August and hopes to finish all 180km by October 30, the 11th anniversary of Charlene’s death. During it, his family have helped him to retrace a path to all the places he has lived.

He says: “I am enjoying a trip down memory lane retracing my life journey back through all the places I have lived — 0, Bangor, Dungannon, Killyman and will eventually arrive in the town of my birth, Aughnacloy in County Tyrone.”

Jim has set a fundraising target of £5,000 with all donations going towards the new school which the charity hopes will be built by 2022.

He adds: “I’ve had great support for the appeal and it is also helping me not just physically but it’s good for my mental health. I go to bed every night and have something in my mind to do the next day.

“I’ve nearly £2,000 raised but I have a bit to go yet to finish so hopefully more people will support me and help give the children in Uganda the chance of an education.”

  • To help Jim’s heroic effort you can donate at https://www.gofundme.com/f/jim-copeland

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