Final preparations are underway for the Tour de Connor cycle marathon which will raise funds for charity and remember those who have died of cancer.
Unfortunately, illness means the bike-mad Bishop of Connor will be unable to join the 350 mile pedal push, but the three remaining cyclists, the Rev Bill Boyce, rector of St Brigid’s, Mallusk; his curate, the Rev Andrew Ker, and parishioner Sam Cunningham are now winding down for the big push!
They will stop at every single Church of Ireland parish where they will collect a list of names compiled by parishioners in memory of loved ones who have died of cancer.
They will also be collecting sponsorship and hope to raise £20,000 the local Friends of the Cancer Centre charity. They are already hitting the £5,000 mark!
For Bill the sponsored cycle will be emotionally as well as physically demanding, for the event has been organised in remembrance of his wife Sandra, who was just 56 when she died from cancer last year.
The ‘Tour de Connor’ will start at St Brigid’s Parish Church, Mallusk, on Tuesday June 1, and the team expects to be in the saddle for six days as they tackle the gruelling 346 mile route round the diocese, finishing back at St Brigid’s on Sunday June 6, the first anniversary of Sandra’s death.
The Book of Remembrance, made up of the lists collected at each parish church, will be dedicated at a Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance on Sunday June 6 at 4pm in St Brigid’s. The preacher will be the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Alan Harper.
A keen cyclist, Andrew has had a route in mind for some time, but it was Bill’s wish to do something to remember Sandra, and to thank the Cancer Centre, that turned an aspiration into a reality.
Andrew said: “I have wanted to do something for some time that involved the whole diocese, something to encourage people to get to know their neighbouring churches, and a cycle seemed the most practical way to do it.” He added: “This is not just Bill’s journey or our journey, but everybody’s.”
Bill said: “It was the care and compassion of the people in the Cancer Centre at the Belfast City Hospital that spoke to me. They were very dedicated people and they need funding so I wanted to do something for them. I was just chatting to Andrew and this all fell into place.
“I see the Tour de Connor as having a dual purpose. It is a diocese-wide venture, but is also a way of helping people who have to deal with cancer,” he said.
Bishop Alan said he had three reasons to support the cycle. “This is my way of supporting Bill and honouring Sandra who was just a delightful person,” he said.
“I am also doing it because I believe that the Friends of the Cancer Centre is a wonderful organisation and I want to support such a worthy cause. And thirdly I know from pastoral experience a number of people across Northern Ireland who have lost loved ones through cancer and remembrance is very important for them. In remembering those who have died we are hopefully helping those who grieve.”
Friends of the Cancer Centre is a registered charity based at the Cancer Centre, Northern Ireland's regional centre for excellence located at Belfast City Hospital. The charity relies entirely on voluntary donations and raises money to put directly into projects that make a real and meaningful difference to the lives of thousands of patients and their families.
Full of admiration for the local fantastic four's pedal power, Colleen Shaw, Fundraising Manager for Friends of the Cancer Centre, said: "I got to know Bill when Sandra was attending the Cancer Centre. Bill's a passionate and determined character who'll achieve anything he puts his mind to, so I've no doubt he'll complete this challenge.
“Having now met the rest of the team, who are all equally 'lively' characters, I'm sure they’ll all have a jolly good time while raising such important funds to support our regional centre for excellence in cancer treatment.
“They've come up with a really great idea that will no doubt capture the public's attention through the Tour de Connor and we welcome anyone to contact us should they have other interesting ideas to raise funds."
Donations to help the St Brigid’s Tour de Connor cyclists reach their target can be made in the following ways: online at www.justgiving.com/Bill-Boyce, telephone donations via calling the Friends of the Cancer Centre on 028 9069 9393, or by posting a cheque, payable to ‘Friends of the Cancer Centre’, marked on the back with ‘Tour de Connor,’ to: Friends of the Cancer Centre, Belfast City Hospital, Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7AB.