After Chris Lucas passed away due to rhabdomyosarcoma, the most common form of soft tissue sarcoma in children, The Chris Lucas Trust was set up to raise funds for research into this form of cancer, and to help preserve the memory of the brave teenager. Chris’ friends came up with the idea of a sponsored cycle event to raise money for the charity – and when seven young men and two of their fathers set out from Seahouses and rode to Tynemouth (raising several hundred pounds in the process), the Great North Bike Ride was born.
‘It’s just progressed from there,’ says Lynn Lucas, Chris’ mum. ‘The following year we did it again, and we had about 50 people take part. The biggest year was about three years ago when we had 2,500 cyclists do it, which was absolutely fantastic – we raised about £120,000 that year.’
The event has certainly grown from its humble beginnings, and now attracts corporate sponsorship, with businesses such as Tunnock’s and Edinburgh Cycles getting involved and providing nourishment and en route assistance. It’s not just dedicated cyclists clad in Lycra that have been getting involved, however. ‘It attracts all ages,’ says Lynn. ‘I think the eldest participant at the moment is 83 this year – he’s done it for the last five years. The youngest we ever had was a seven-year-old a few years ago – he and his dad got to the finish, his dad was sweating, but he got off his bike and said ‘Where’s my football?’ He had so much energy.
‘We get all sorts,’ she continues. ‘A dear friend did the whole route on rollerblades. He did fantastically, but the blisters on his shins were terrible. He wasn’t bothered though. We’ve had unicycles, we’ve had coppers on choppers, we’ve had some doing it in fancy dress – a guy did it only wearing Speedos once.’
Lynn also explains that riders are free to join the Great North Bike Ride for a shorter part of the route, if they can’t manage the full 60 miles, and has a ready-made solution for those struggling to get to Seahouses for an early morning start. ‘I tell people to start at Warkworth at around 11 o’clock,’ Lynn explains. ‘Sometimes they love it and end up doing the full route the next year.
‘We have articulated wagons converted for the bikes,’ she continues. ‘Last year, Stanley Coaches came out and we took more than 400 people up to Seahouses in the morning. It was a great atmosphere on the buses on the way up – everyone having their breakfast during the journey, it was lovely.’
Despite describing The Great North Bike Ride as the charity’s ‘little baby,’ the sponsored cycle is not the only fundraising event regularly run by The Chris Lucas Trust. ‘We’ve done the Full Monty,’ Lynn explains. ‘We do the Jingle Bell Walk in Newcastle, we do golf events, we go out and shake the cans, pubs have got our boxes, then other people come along with ideas and do their own things.’
All of this inspirational work has resulted in 2017 already being a special year for Lynn on a personal level – she recently received a Pride of the North East Award for Fundraiser of the Year in a ceremony at Newcastle’s Civic Centre. Despite this honour though, the North East native remains humble. ‘You’ve just got to try and do your best for people,’ she says. ‘I’m just fundraising to try and make a difference to children with cancer, and through research, we’re doing that. There are new drugs coming around and clinical trials. To a parent, if you can keep your child alive an extra six months when you’re told they’ve only got three years, it’s a hell of a thing.’