Dec 28, 2008

Coast2Coast USA - Raising Money for the Noah's Ark Appeal and the Childrens Hospital for Wales

(Follow the team's progress on their blog HERE.)

Americymru member Gareth Evans and three friends are setting out to cross the continental US by bicycle, to help raise money for the first children's hospital in Wales.

The Children's Hospital for Wales, constructed next to the Universityof Wales Hospital in Cardiff and part of the British National Health Service, is intended to treat more than 8,000 inpatients and 20,000 outpatients per year and is the first hospital in Wales dedicated solely to the treatment of children. It opened and received its first patients in March, 2005 and now includes a dedicated main entrance and child-friendly reception area for children's services, two children's medical wards with bedside parent accomodation and a pediatric oncology unit which includes its own ward, day care unit, outpatient care and parent accomodation area.

The Noah's Ark Appeal is a charity campaign to raise funds to improve and expand the children's hospital and the care it offers. Noah's Ark raised the funds to build the existing hospital facilities and to provide new equipmentand fund an art program for patients, to make the children's stay thereless frightening. People from all over Wales and celebrities including Charlotte Church and Katherine Zeta-Jones have lent their time and effort to raising money to contribute to Noah's Ark.

Gareth Evans, originally from Newcastle Emlyn and now a resident of Cardiff, is himself father of an eighteen-month old girl, Gwenno-Mai, with his wife, Eleri. Gareth and friend, Andy Edwards, came up with the idea of a challenge ride, in part to help Gareth recover from an injury that sidelined him from rugby. From there it seemed like a good idea tothem to use it to raise money for a charity and the Noah's Ark Appeal was :- "the obvious one for us." Ratcheting it up to a ride across the southern United States, from California to Florida, "was a concept of making the impossible-possible'!"

Signing on for this adventure with Gareth are: Andy Edwards, who operates an outdoor activity centre in Pendine called Morfa Bay Adventure; Richard Belcher, a cyclist originally from Kent and now living in Cardiff who has prior experience as a charity fund-raising cyclist; and Phil Jenkins, of Carmarthen, Andy Edwards' brother in law. Their support crew so far consists of: Tim Wilson, Gareth's brother in law and an army medic from Llandysul; Llandysul hotelier Andrew James, Tim's father and Gareth's father in law; Carmarthen accountant, Ian Stone; Martin Jones, also from Carmarthen; Henry Jones and one additional member still to be confirmed.

Their route will begin in Santa Monica, California, on the Pacific coast west of Los Angeles proper. They'll ride through Joshua Tree and the Mojave to Las Vegas, then on to the Grand Canoyon, Monument Valley and into Taos, New Mexico. From there on to Austin, Texas, where they've found a American-Welsh welcome stopover, then down to New Orleans, across the gulf coast and intend to finish in either Saint Augustine, Jacksonville or Daytona Beach, Florida.

The entire route covers between 3500-4000 miles and their goal is to complete it in fourteen days. Riders will ride in shifts, two at a time, and the team will have to cover about 200 miles a day. They'll have two support vehicles and are hoping for a small recreational vehicle to rest riders in between their legs of the trip and for medical and maintenance services.

The Proposed Route

Gareth hopes to make contact with as many Welsh-Americans as he can to find people willing to host them along their route, help organize fundraising activities in their hometowns and "have a bit of a bash at night time." The team may have a documentary film crew following them and they'd love to be able to show them Welsh communities in the US, as well as having a more enjoyable trip making friends than staying in a hotel room can provide.

On his team's experience and preparation for the trip, Gareth says, "We've never done anything like this before. Richard and myself met on a charity cycle from London to Paris, which was 350 miles over three days. Andy has completed the 'etape,' which is a stage of the Tour de France, a couple of times. Phil is a relative novice! We are all novices. Andy and myself used to play rugby, but had to finish due to injury. We have all been training for this over the last eighteen months, as well as maintain family life and work full time. There is no way we can predict how it will go, which adds to the excitement and apprehension. We have done what we can within the time constraints as far as phsyical preperation is concerned, but as with all endurance events - it's all in the head!"

Gareth writes that all members of the team have worked hard toward this trip, given up a lot and he looks foward to making the trip a reality and completing it successfully. "Personally, my family have made a hell of a lot of sacrifices, with regards to giving up their spare time, especially as we have a young daughter, so I want to get the challenge 'ot of the way,' to spend time with them. We have worked towards this for two years by the time we start. We must finish it. Anything else would be a failure. The fact that we aim to do it within two weeks just adds to the challenge. I have no doubt that we will complete it, unless the worst happens. I also know that the rest of the guys have given up a lot, as have their families, so the hope I have is that all four of
us start together at Santa Monica and all four of us finish (hopefully greeted by our families) in Florida."

Their target is to raise £50,000 for the appeal, or $88,500.00. They are a bit over halfway to their goal but at this point the team needs to focus on physical preparations for their trip. They need assistance in raising more donations, creating attention for the campaign, and help and welcome along the way. In Toas, New Mexico, a photographer has volunteered to photograph them, a fundraiser is being organized and the community is putting the team members up for the night. If anyone can help, Gareth asks, "Please support us. If you're along the route, why not organise an event for us, or even try and host us for the evening - village halls, camper beds, anything! Please highlight the challenge and charty amongst your friends and family stateside, and relatives back here in wales. Any ideas you have would be massively appreciated."

You can contact Gareth Evans here on his member page or through the team's website. Let's all help them make their trip an incredible success.

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