Ulster Cycling News

Father’s All Ireland Cycle Challenge

Father's All Ireland Cycle Challenge in Memory of Daughter Anna
A father is undertaking the mammoth challenge of cycling a circuit of Ireland in eight days in tribute to his daughter who passed away almost three years ago from a brain tumour.
Randal McAllister from Kilrea in Co. Derry along with good friends Paul Donnelly & Brian Calvert will cycle 1,200km passing through all 32 counties of Ireland in memory of Randal's daughter Anna, to raise funds for two charities, Cancer Fund for Children and the Children's Cancer Unit Charity.

It is fitting that the challenge takes place during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of the devastating impact of childhood cancer on families.

Anna McAllister a former student at Loreto College in Coleraine was diagnosed with a brain tumour in March 2013 when she was 15 years old.  Following her diagnosis, she underwent major brain surgery, multiple courses of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, stem cell transplants and emergency surgeries.  Sadly on 19th September 2014, aged just 16 years old, Anna passed away after a heroic fight to overcome her cancer.

Speaking about when Anna was first diagnosed, Randal said:

"Anna's diagnosis was totally devastating for our personal family circle, for her close friends and all those who knew and loved Anna. She was a strong and pragmatic girl who showed great strength of character during the events that followed her diagnosis. Anna's condition was extremely severe and required very aggressive treatments to try and combat the brain tumour.  These treatments along with Anna's illness had serious debilitating effects on her life.  It left her unable to walk from an early stage and also severely affected her normal motor skills.  Basic things that we all take for granted like holding a knife and fork, holding and writing with a pen, putting on makeup as Anna loved to do very much, therefore robbing her of her teenage independence and leaving her totally dependent on others to do the most basic day to day things for her.

"After the Chemotherapy & Radiotherapy Anna lost her beautiful long blonde hair. I think she personally found this was the most difficult event to deal with.  After losing everything else and suffering operations and severe cancer treatments, her beautiful hair which she valued so dearly was gone and it never did return. Like everything else, she had to come to terms with this as well which she did with such dignity.

"From the start Anna's treatment was fraught with problems and complications that led to many emergency operations and admissions into intensive care. Her determination to overcome her illness and survive has been an inspiration to everyone who knew her and has led to many fundraising events taking place in her name. The All Ireland Cycle Challenge is just a continuation of the 'Anna effect' whilst we keep her memory very much to the fore."

The All Ireland Cycle Challenge will start on Saturday 9th September at 'Daisy Lodge' the Cancer Fund for Children's short break centre in Newcastle Co. Down at 10am and will finish on Saturday 16th September at Anna's home just outside Kilrea.

Speaking of the two charities the three cyclists are raising funds for, Randal said:

"The Children's Cancer Unit Charity and Cancer Fund for Children played a vital role during Anna's illness and treatment. Now that we have gone through the terrible event of our daughter's illness and death, we recognise the significant importance of both charities to other families facing a childhood cancer diagnosis."

"We feel we want to help these charities who support families affected by cancer, and hopefully this event will increase awareness of what they do for our community as well as raising some money.  If you see us cycling along our route, please honk your horn or better still throw a few pounds or euros into our collection buckets."

"We would also like to thank our event sponsors Cross Group, McAleer and Rushe, Daikin Air Conditioning, Carnroe Supplies and Paul Marshall Auto & Spray (our coach and team support), whose empathy and generosity has helped make this event possible. We'd also like to thank all the individuals and organisations who have supported our challenge and pledged donations to the charities we are fundraising for."

Cancer Fund for Children is the leading local children's cancer charity that provides practical, financial and therapeutic support to children, young people and teenagers living with cancer, and their families. During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the charity is raising awareness of the range of support it provides to families affected by cancer across Northern Ireland, so they don't have to face cancer alone.

The Children's Cancer Unit Charity supports the Haematology /Oncology Unit at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children by providing funds for equipment, staffing, infrastructure and support for families at the Unit, which is the only place in Northern Ireland were children can receive their treatment for cancer.

You can donate to either charities on the links below: -

Cancer Fund for Children

The Children's Cancer Unit Charity

Or find out more information about the challenge at 'All Ireland 32 County Cycle'.  Cycling clubs and individuals are welcome to show their support by joining Randal and his team to cycle sections of the route.  All details are available on the website.

Marian Lamb UCN : marianlamb@ulstercyclingnews.com

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