Scorching sunshine could not prevent a big-hearted Mercedes-Benz Vans team of more than 100 riders and supporters from completing a gruelling sponsored cycle and smashing their £20,000 fund-raising target.
Temperatures approached 30ºC on Sunday (8 July), as colleagues representing the manufacturer and its Dealer Network, as well as customers, suppliers and friends, pedalled the 62 miles from Manchester to Blackpool.
It was the second year running that Mercedes-Benz Vans has taken part in the annual event, which is organised by The Christie cancer charity. In 2017 the Mercedes-Benz contingent raised £13,500 for Parkinson’s UK. This year they rode in support of Cancer Research as well as Parkinson’s UK, and the total raised has now reached nearly £22,500! Mercedes-Benz Vans is supporting both charities through its Give Back Programme in 2018.
Front of mind for many as they racked up the miles was Martyn Donnelly, a former van sales manager who worked for two Mercedes-Benz Dealers in the North-East. A keen cyclist, Martyn passed away last October, aged just 55, after losing his two-year battle with stomach cancer.
The Mercedes-Benz Vans cyclists were delighted to be joined on the ride by The Don Clan, an 11-strong team comprising relatives and friends of Martyn, headed by his son James, for whom this was just the latest in a string of fund-raising events staged in his name.
Martyn’s widow Lynn, and other family members, were also there to wave the cyclists off, and greet them as they crossed the finish line on Blackpool’s South Promenade. “What a fantastic effort!” she declared. “Martyn loved working for the Mercedes-Benz brand and it was wonderful to see so many friends and former colleagues helping to preserve his memory. We all had a wonderful day; I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
Mercedes-Benz Vans’ Managing Director Steve Bridge and Head of Dealer Sales Martyn Harvey both knew Martyn Donnelly well. “We first worked together in the early 1980s, and our paths crossed many times over the years that followed,” recalled Martyn Harvey. “Martyn was a genuinely nice, sincere guy, and very popular. He also loved his cycling, so I was delighted when our Charity Committee agreed that the team should ride in his name.”
Martyn Harvey, who embarked on a fitness regime last year and has shed three stones since October, was a first-time participant in the Manchester to Blackpool epic. “With the exception of a couple of short rides in the run-up to the event, it was the first time I’ve been on a bike in 25 years,” he admitted. “It was certainly warm enough, and I was in the saddle for five hours, but I felt fine at the end. The fact that I’ve personally raised £1,800 for a very good cause certainly made it all very worthwhile.”
District Manager Liz Verwey, a member of the Charity Committee member, organised the Mercedes-Benz Vans entry and, for the third year in succession, completed the ride herself. “We had more than twice the number of riders and supporters this year, compared to 2017, which demonstrates the extent to which this event has captured the imaginations of those of us who work at HQ and out in our Dealer Network.
“First and foremost, it presents a great opportunity to raise much-needed funds for a very deserving cause. There are spin-off benefits, too, though, because the event also doubles as a fantastic team-building exercise – those who have fun together, also work well together.”
To underline this point, Mercedes-Benz Vans staged a post-event picnic on the promenade, at which the steak pie and mash went down a treat. “What else would you want after hours of physical exertion on one of the hottest days of the year,” laughed Liz.
Mercedes-Benz Vans has now set its sights on a new target of £25,000. The Just Giving site is still open and all donations will be gratefully received: