Now we have said goodbye to 2021, the Devon Freewheelers volunteers have been looking back at the old year and how the charity’s ‘fabulous fundraisers’ helped keep the Blood Bikes’ wheels turning, supporting the NHS for free.
For a second year running, a host of charity champions have found unique and imaginative ways to fundraise for the Devon Freewheelers, amid the coronavirus pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions.
Thanks to their efforts and donations, the free Blood Bikes service has been able to rise to the challenge of going the extra mile to help Devon’s extremely stretched health services.
Since the start of the pandemic the Devon Freewheelers’ blood bike service has been in demand more than ever before, providing extra support to the NHS throughout the whole of the South West.
Russell Roe, Devon Freewheelers deputy CEO, said: “It’s all thanks to our fabulous fundraisers and volunteers that the Devon Blood Bikes can provide a free service to the NHS, helping out wherever we are needed in our county’s villages and towns.
“This year there has been more demand for our services than ever before and its all thanks to our fundraisers and supporters that we can keep doing what we do for our communities.
"In addition to our free courier service, this year the volunteers have been out in force supporting residents across Devon in a number of different ways, such as help during flooding.
“We are a community-led service and our volunteers are keen to get involved and help out wherever they are needed.”
As the Devon Freewheelers volunteers and supporters rang in the New Year, an intrepid team of rowers reached the halfway mark of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
At the start of January, the four-strong Force Genesis had around 1,500 miles left to reach Antigua, battling against the elements, taking part in the 3,000-mile ‘world’s toughest row’.
Sympathy for the wife of a Devon Freewheeler Blood Biker raised almost £500 for the charity this month when volunteer Stephen Nash shaved off his winter beard in return for donations.
Married for 30 years, Tracey Nash joked divorce had been avoided by a whisker after Stephen agreed to bin the beard if he could raise £150 for Devon Freewheelers.
When sympathetic supporters rallied round to give £470, Stephen said farewell to the face fuzz and Tracey no longer had to ‘kiss a hedgehog’.
A plucky team of rowers taking on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in aid of the Devon Freewheelers this month crossed the finish line after 50 days at sea.
The four-strong Force Genesis, who set off on the 3,000-mile row on December 12, 2020, were welcomed back as heroes when they reached Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour, in Antigua, on February 1.
The rowers, who raised more than £7,000 for the Devon Blood Bikes service, said they ‘worked seriously hard’ to reach the finish line.
February was the month the children of a ‘devoted mum’ from Crediton who died suddenly presented a cheque in her memory to the Devon Freewheelers.
Mum-of-two Donna Midgley, aged 44, died in hospital from a pulmonary embolism and heart attack in 2020.
Donna’s son, 10-year-old Callum Teal, presented a cheque for £265 to the charity, collected in his mum’s memory.
Callum and his sister, Keeley, chose Devon Freewheelers to receive the money from a congregation collection at Donna’s funeral.
This month the Devon Freewheelers heaped praise on two ‘diamond’ mechanics who went above and beyond to help the charity.
The charity shone the spotlight on selfless Paul Richards, a car mechanic from Honiton. He lived around the clock in his garage for three months to help the Devon Freewheelers continue operating through the pandemic - staying on site 24/7 to keep the charity’s vehicles on the road throughout lockdown.
And windscreen repairman Andy Hutchings, from Exeter, was thanked after he waived his £160 fee ‘for friends’ when one of the vehicles needed work.
The Devon Freewheelers volunteers this month spoke of their pride at being involved with the ongoing global BRACE Trial, transporting samples collected from across Devon to determine if the BCG vaccine might help protect against COVID-19 – research in the UK is led by the University of Exeter.
Devon Freewheelers Emergency Voluntary Service (EVS) volunteers routinely collect BRACE Trial samples from multiple locations in the county, transporting them for testing by the University of Exeter’s research team.
Volunteers continue to collect samples from three locations - two in Exeter and one in Teignmouth - taking them for testing at the university’s facility at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
This month homemade knitted Easter chicks raised £100 for the charity thanks to crafter Valerie Payne, from Tiverton, who sold them after they went on display in florist RoseTime Flowers, also in the town.
Valerie said her donation to Devon Freewheelers was because ‘we all appreciate so much the vital work that you continue to do’.
Also in April, Plymstock and District U3A members presented ‘very worthwhile Devon based-charity’ Devon Freewheelers with £925, collected during the spring lockdown.
The funds were raised through the sales of books, recycled jigsaws, homemade bread, individual donations and a contribution from history talks held over Zoom.
‘Hidden hero’ Jessi Little, owner at BJS Engineering, in Offwell, East Devon, was this month celebrated for his work helping to keep the charity on the road
For the last four years Jessi has waived his MOT fee for the Honiton-based charity’s motorbikes.
And when other Devon garages closed during the first Covid-19 lockdown, Jessi stayed open for the Devon Freewheelers and took on the charity’s servicing, mechanics and MOTs from other areas of the county.
An Exmouth charity champion this month announced she had taken on a further year of extreme challenges to raise funds for the Devon Freewheelers.
Tanya Robinson last year raised more than £2,000 for the Devon Blood Bikes tackling a challenge a month which included running, cycling and climbing more than 200 miles, - ending with a 73-mile overnight walk from North Devon to the charity’s Honiton headquarters.
Mum-of-one Tanya, whose 2020 year of challenges marked her 40th birthday, hoped to raise at least £3,000 with a JustGiving page for the Devon Freewheelers, through a fresh set of punishing monthly tasks.
April 2021 was the month Devon Freewheelers introduced virtual talks amid the Covid-19 pandemic - for groups and organisations keen to learn about the work of the charity and its volunteers.
The virtual talks replaced traditional visits by a Blood Bike volunteer, in a bid to continue highlighting the work of the charity throughout Devon to community groups, schools, businesses and other organisations.
The tailored talks, in return for a donation, proved a success with the charity’s supporters, while raising much-needed funds for the Devon Freewheelers.
Mum-of-three Kelly Lawson, aged 43, of St Leonards, in Exeter, this month completed her own Challenge 62, as a tribute to dad David Meyer, from Chelston, in Torquay, who died from coronavirus in March 2020, aged 62.
Married Kelly, an accountant, who during April and May celebrated her dad’s life by swimming, running and cycling, raised more than £1,300 for the Devon Freewheelers charity through a JustGiving page.
In June Devon Freewheelers celebrated its ‘hidden heroes’ while marking Volunteers’ Week 2021.
Volunteer Steve Randell went above and beyond in his role to help when he was called to Jon Jackson’s home, in Okehampton, and spotted a host of Royal Marines memorabilia.
Jon, aged 49, who suffers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) dating back to childhood, held back the tears when Steve - a Sergeant Major in the Royal Marines at the Lympstone Commando training camp when not volunteering for the Devon Blood Bikes service - gave him a coveted green beret for his collection.
In July Devon Freewheelers volunteers were invited to Exmouth to showcase the charity’s work as part of the town’s Organ Donor and Transplant Awareness Day event.
Visitors to The Strand, in Exmouth, spent time learning about the work of the Devon Blood Bikes in the community, meeting the volunteers and having a look at some of the vehicles used by the charity when delivering essential medical supplies to support the NHS.
Ahead of the holidays, Devon Freewheelers volunteers were also in Exmouth this month giving away free face masks.
The Devon Blood Bikes volunteers donated face masks to schools in the town, for staff and students to wear.
Devon Freewheelers donated free face masks to Exmouth Community College, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Littleham Church of England Primary School, Brixington Primary Academy and The Beacon Church of England Primary School.
A flurry of fundraisers helped keep the Devon Blood Bikes on the road during July thanks to a host of imaginative and unique ways.
Tiverton Spiritual and Healing Group was this month thanked by Devon Freewheelers for raising £500 for the charity, when members collected donations during lockdown.
Crediton and District Lions Club donated £100 to Devon Freewheelers ‘in appreciation for all the ‘valuable work’ the charity carries out in the community.
And Exeter Airport presented the Devon Freewheelers with more than £2,000.
The airport chose Devon Freewheelers as its charity of the year thanks to a nomination made by an employee.
Hall & Scott Estate Agents, in Ottery St Mary, this month announced it had chosen the Devon Freewheelers as its charity of the year because of the ‘service the Devon Blood Bikes provides’.
Staff based at the Broad Street office revealed they planned to organise fundraising activities in a bid to raise awareness of the Devon Freewheelers and its free delivery service, supporting the NHS.
Elliott Jeffery, Assistant Sales Office Manager at Hall & Scott, in Ottery, said the branch chose the Devon Devon Freewheelers as its charity of the year ‘because of the service they provide for the community’.
Devon Freewheelers volunteers in August were with the charity’s vehicles at Southleigh Country Fayre, Dawlish Carnival Blue Light Day and Honiton Charter Day, speaking to a steady stream of visitors interested in the service, and how it supports the NHS for free.
And motorcycle enthusiasts gathering at summer bike nights across the county have been keen to learn about the work of the Devon Freewheelers, signing up to volunteer.
The Devon Blood Bikes charity was out in force over the summer months, displaying its vehicles at events, fetes and weekly bike nights in Plymouth, Paignton, Teignmouth and Bideford.
At the end of August, a Devon Freewheelers’ charity champion visited the Blood Bikes’ headquarters to launch a fundraising raffle in her dad’s memory.
Kelly Lawson, from Exeter, offered to raffle an Exeter City football, signed by the latest team, with all proceeds in aid of the Devon Freewheelers.
Kelly has been supporting the charity through fundraising in memory of her ‘petrol head’ dad David Meyer, from Chelston, in Torquay, who died from coronavirus in March 2020, aged 62.
The Devon Freewheelers' ‘necessary service’ this month won the backing of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, at Beer, who named the cause its charity of the year.
The Buffs Brothers, in Beer, held a fundraising tombola at Jubilee Gardens, where they raised funds and awareness of the Devon Freewheelers Blood Bikes charity.
Brother Colin Levine said the Ye Rattenbury Lodge nominated the Devon Freewheelers because its members recognised the work of the charity locally, and across the county.
A convoy of hundreds of motorcycles set off from Plymouth this month in appreciation of the UK’s Covid-19 NHS and essential workers, while raising funds for the Devon Freewheelers.
The September NHS Ride of Thanks Devon was organised by Andy Ash and grew into a national event after word spread and bikers from across the UK set up more than 30 additional rides.
Mr Ash said the Devon Freewheelers Blood Bikes was the ‘perfect’ charity to benefit from the local event because many of those attending could need the county-wide service in the future.
Motorcyclists in their 100s showed their appreciation for NHS and essential workers. They raised funds to keep a Devon Freewheelers Blood Bike on the road for almost a year.
The Devon NHS Ride of Thanks raised more than £2,967 for the Devon Freewheelers charity thanks to the generosity of more than 600 motorcyclists’ donations.
First-time London Marathon runners Tanya Robinson, from Exmouth, and Kelly Lawson, from Exeter, in October each completed the 26.2 miles in just over four hours, to raise vital funds for the Devon Freewheelers charity.
Tanya, who is married to Devon Blood Bike volunteer Jim, secured a place to run the marathon in London, finishing the race in four hours and 58 minutes.
Mum-of-three Kelly completed the virtual London Marathon in four hours and 44 minutes, forging her own route in Devon, which included beauty spots close to her heart, in memory of her dad, David Meyer, from Chelston, in Torquay, who died from coronavirus in March 2020, aged 62.
Funds from a summer mini music festival near Tiverton were this month presented to the Devon Freewheelers.
Staff at the Quarryman’s Rest, in Briton Street, Bampton, presented the Devon Blood Bikes charity with £510 thanks to the generosity of the town's festival-goers.
The funds will pay for the cost of replacing two sets of motorbike tyres, keeping one Devon Blood Bike on the road for 10 months.
Festival funds of £1,020 was split between the Devon Freewheelers and the Devon Air Ambulance.
This month dancers in Torquay presented the Devon Freewheelers with a donation of £550.
The Torquay and District Scottish Society invited charity volunteer and rider Rob Meadows along to meet club members and receive a cheque for the Devon Freewheelers.
In October students on course to be rescuers, protectors and volunteers of the future learned about the ‘amazing work’ of the Devon Freewheelers charity.
Devon Freewheelers volunteer Dave Cook gave a ‘fantastic insight’ into the service of the Devon Blood Bikes, supporting the NHS for free, when he spoke to Military and Protective Services Academy students, at Bicton College, in East Devon.
Scott Lawson, Curriculum Area Manager at Bicton College, said: “Dave was brilliant and gave our learners a fantastic insight into the amazing work of the charity.”
A vampire night held at the Honiton Wine Bar to mark Halloween raised a fang-tastic £300 for the Devon Freewheelers charity.
Halloween celebrations were held at the Honiton Wine Bar, in the High Street, organised by owners Peter and Lisa Beigan, serving up ‘blood-thirsty’ cocktails and juicy steaks to customers, who joined in the fun wearing fancy dress.
A percentage of the profits from the night was donated to the Devon Blood Bikes charity.
Lisa Beigan, at Honiton Wine Bar, said: “It seemed very appropriate to support this charity, mainly because it is a very worthy local charity who work extremely hard to provide essential services for our community.”
Husband and wife volunteers from Plymouth this month spoke of their virtual challenge - going head-to-head - to walk from Land’s End to John o’ Groats for the Devon Freewheelers.
Married Anthony and Amy Ewens competed against each other in LEJOG21, to travel a distance of 874-miles, raising £150 for the Devon Blood Bikes charity.
Amy, aged 28, a Devon Freewheelers volunteer blood car driver for almost two years in the Plymouth area, forged ahead finishing first - a month before husband Anthony, who was at sea with the Royal Navy.
This month praise was heaped on Devon Freewheelers volunteers for rallying round to deliver a mum’s vital breast milk to her two premature babies in hospital.
The Devon Freewheelers charity stepped in to help when volunteers were told a family from Somerset was struggling to make daily 30-mile round trips to feed their babies in the neonatal unit at Taunton.
Within an hour of learning of the family’s plight, six volunteers agreed a five-day rota to collect mum’s breast milk from the home address and deliver it to Musgrove Park Hospital.
Hospital staff said the Devon Freewheelers charity, based in Honiton, had provided a ‘vital service’, transporting breast milk to vulnerable and premature babies in the first few weeks of their lives.
Susan Fulker, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust’s neonatal unit manager, said: “This vital service has enabled vulnerable and premature babies to receive their mother’s milk, which is such an important part of their care, helping to ensure the best nutrition in the first few weeks of their lives.
“The Devon Freewheelers are so helpful and reliable, always turning up with a cheerful smile and a friendly word.”
An Exeter mum’s festive challenge to make a charity Christmas mascot for the Devon Freewheelers has fuelled a blood bike for 1,000 miles.
Tammy Tudor, of Beacon Heath, Exeter, raised £140 by crocheting Christmas coats for teddy bears for the charity to sell at fundraising events during November and December.
Russell Roe, Devon Freewheelers deputy CEO, said the festive teddy bears ‘went down a storm’ with the charity’s supporters and would have sold several times over.
1: L to R, clockwise: Amy Ewings, Honiton Wine Bar, Quarryman's Rest, Tammy Tudor's teddies, Military and Protective Services Academy students, at Bicton College. Photos: Devon Freewheelers.
2: L to R, clockwise: Tanya Robinson, The Torquay and District Scottish Society, Hall & Scott, The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, at Beer, Kelly Lawson with the signed football. Photos: Devon Freewheelers.
3: L to R, clockwise: Callum Teal (photo Alan Quick/Crediton Courier), Exmouth Transplant Awareness Day, Plymstock and District U3A, Exmouth Community College students, Plymouth Bike Night. Photos: Devon Freewheelers.
4: L to R, clockwise: Tanya Robinson with Annaka Lloyd, Steve Randell with Jon Jackson, Kelly Lawson, Force Genesis, Stephen and Tracey Nash. Photos: with permission/Devon Freewheelers.