Injured Yorkshire soldier Ben Parkinson completes 1,000-mile charity cycle ride with team of amputee veterans
Yorkshire paratrooper Ben Parkinson, the most severely injured UK serviceman to survive the Afghanistan conflict, has completed a gruelling 1,000-mile charity bike ride aas part of a team of amputee veterans.
The 35-year-old, of Bessacarr in Doncaster, took part in Operation Ride UK, which saw the team join firefighters in riding from John O'Groats to Land's End over 13 days using push and hand bikes and specially-adapted tandems.
The veterans cycled 80 miles a day through a heatwave at the beginning of the challenge and torrential rain at the end.
Along the way, the group had a number of celebrity endorsements including Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne.
The team took on the challenge to raise awareness of motor neurone disease after their team-mate John Chart was diagnosed with the condition last year.
They have so far raised more than £14,500 for both motor neurone disease and charity Pilgrim Bandits, which organises gruelling expeditions for injured service and emergency personnel, many of whom are amputees or have PTSD, and who helped organise the ride.
Mr Parkinson - who is a Pilgrim Bandits patron and former Lance Bombardier, is one of the most seriously injured to survive the battlefield and lost both legs and suffered brain damage while serving in Afghanistan in 2006.
He said: “It’s been a long time in lockdown and I hadn’t seen anybody for months —I couldn’t wait to be part of the team again. There’s always someone struggling and this was my chance to support John to get him on his way.”
A firefighter for 26 years, Mr Chart, from Beckenham, Kent, said he was “devastated” by his diagnosis but determined to fight.
The 49-year-old used a specially-adapted tandem throughout the challenge and was joined by people along the way, including his 14-year-old son Christopher and wife Arlene.
Mr Chart said: “Motor neurone disease shuts down your muscular system until you are literally cocooned inside your own body, your brain is still compos mentis but you can’t move, you can’t breathe, you can’t eat, you can’t speak and your body eventually will just close down until you sadly pass away.
“This ride has been about doing everything I can to raise awareness as not enough is known about the disease – many of us participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge a few years ago but how many of us took the time to read up about what it was all about? That’s what I want from this challenge — I want people to take a few minutes to read up on this demonic disease.
“It’s a matter of doing everything I possibly can with great people like the Pilgrim Bandits. I want people to see the devastation of what it does to you, but I also want to say to people don’t ever give up.
“You’ve got to keep going. We’ve had some great support throughout the challenge and it’s really kept us all going — it’s what it’s all been about.”
Donations to the cycle can be made online here.