When a police officer is suited and booted in their high vis jacket, staple black boots or riot gear, it can be difficult to see that underneath the uniform, there is a person who just like you and I, has hobbies, favourite foods and most importantly, a family.
One such person is our Custody Inspector from Doncaster, Richard Collingwood, who has worked for South Yorkshire Police for the last 20 years in a range of different roles, from a response PC in Doncaster to Safer Neighbourhood Team Sergeant in Rotherham.
Sadly, his mum passed away last year at 78-years-old, after a seven-year long battle with the heart-breaking illness dementia. Insp Collingwood wanted to do something in her memory and to raise awareness of the illness, and as a keen cycler, opted for a 250-mile bike ride across Wales!
“After such a long fight against dementia, my mum, Eileen, passed away in May last year. She was such a proud and intelligent woman, raising myself and my two siblings to be the confident and well-rounded people we are today,” said Insp Collingwood, “But the illness is just utterly heart-breaking, having to watch your loved one be reduced to a childlike and confused state, it’s something that so many people go through and families have to witness such a sad deterioration of someone so close to them.
“This was one of the drivers for me to do the bike ride, to raise awareness of the illness and help contribute towards research into Alzheimer’s disease, which is one of the most common causes of dementia, as well honouring the memory of my mum and to remember her.”
Starting at Holyhead in Wales early on Friday, 8 June, Inspector Collingwood and another officer from Doncaster, Sergeant Russ Higham who joined him to offer support throughout the journey, completed just over 100 miles on the first day.
Insp Collingwood said: “We travelled through Snowdonia National Park stopping at Dolgellau after about ten hours of cycling. Luckily, the weather was glorious and we did have additional support from another Doncaster Sergeant, Richard Vernon and retired officer Dean Stockdale, who were essentially our caterers for the three-days and kept us well fuelled with food and drink on the journey!
“We set off from Dolgellau on the Saturday morning at around 9am, completing another 70-miles before stopping for the night near Llandrindod Wells to get some rest for the next day where we would be heading through the Brecon Beacons.
“Our ‘caterers’ managed to trade their role at one point, reverting to the police mantra of ‘protecting and preserving life’ when they saved a lamb we had come across trapped in a cattle grid with his mother, who sadly was no longer alive, on top of him.
“They went back along the ride trail we’d just come down, travelling on the narrow roads for ten miles, just to find the farmer. They then assisted him with the actual recovery of the lamb, to which the farmer was astounded they’d gone to so much trouble!
“The last part of the journey started at 9am on Sunday, 10 June, where we had 80 miles left to complete before we arrived at our final destination of Chepstow. The feeling when we arrived just after 6pm was a mixture of emotions. It was a relief knowing we were finished and could finally dismount the saddle and lose the lycra, but at the same time, I hoped my mum somehow knew I’d done this for her and that I was trying to help others.
“While Russ and I have completed other rides, although not in the rain as we are fair weather riders and train on spin bikes in the winter, none have been as challenging as this one and his support meant a lot to me. I would highly recommend the ride across Wales, there’s a number of routes to choose from and it’s such a beautiful country with absolutely stunning scenery.
“We’re already planning our next ride, potentially looking at a route across Scotland. This will again be in support of the Alzheimer’s Society as it is such a worthwhile cause and I sincerely hope one day with all the research that is being conducted and carried out, a cure or treatment will be eventually be discovered.”
There is a just giving page in aid of the bike ride at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ridefordementia All donations go to the Alzheimer’s Society.
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