Riding 550 Miles in France to Raise Money for Touchstones - A Bereavement Charity

Niall Cowman and his much loved Fuji getting in the miles ahead of his fundraising adventure around France!

Niall Cowman and his much loved Fuji getting in the miles ahead of his fundraising adventure around France!

My mum, who passed away aged just 39 in 2003. She left behind 5 children, aged between 11 and 18.

My mum, who passed away aged just 39 in 2003. She left behind 5 children, aged between 11 and 18.

Niall, a young man fairly new to cycling, recently bought in his Fuji Roubaix for a service. Niall’s bike had clearly been doing some miles, and as a result his drivetrain needed some new parts.

We endeavoured to get Niall’s bike ready in time for him to do the Bromsgrove Reliability Ride, and we later found out that Niall’s miles were all part of a training regime in preparation for a fundraising ride that he has planned.

Niall will be riding the following from Sunday 19th May:

Day 1 - Paris - Auxerre - 128 miles
Day 2 - Auxerre - Chalon Sur Saone - 118 miles
Day 3 - Chalon Sur Saone - Lyon - 79 miles
Day 4 - Lyon - Montelimar - 127 miles
Day 5 - Montelimar - Marseille - 109 miles

Both the cause Niall is fundraising for and his reasons for doing so were close to home for me, and as a business we not only donated to Niall’s cause but we also wanted to raise awareness of his goals and the charity.

Losing a Parent and Gaining Support From Touchstones

In May 2019, Niall is planning to ride from Paris to Marseilles, a total of 550 miles over the course of just 5 days, to raise funds for a local charity called Touchstones; which offers bereavement support services and counselling to children living in Worcestershire who have suffered a loss.

Niall has personal experience of such a bereavement. Aged just 18 at the time, Niall lost his role model, his father. His dad’s passing was sudden and unexpected, falling ill with Pneumonia. It goes without saying that this event was life changing for Niall and his family.

Niall was able to put his energy in to his university degree, allowing him to focus on something positive while coming to terms with such a traumatic loss. However Niall’s younger siblings found it much harder to cope with the loss, finding the bereavement a very difficult experience to process. His youngest sibling was just 8 at the time of their father’s passing.

A loss of a parent, a grandparent, a sibling other family member can be extremely difficult for a child to process. The grief, the anger, the hurt can make it all too easy for children to close down, ceasing communication with others and lead them down difficult paths in life.

Thankfully for Niall and his family, the incredible people at Touchstones were able to support the family through such a difficult time, allowing them to access counselling service, introducing them to other children in a similar situation and being that shoulder to cry on. This support can be absolutely critical in how a child processes a loss.

Personal Experience of Parental Loss

In February 2003 I lost my mum. Mum was my absolute rock, especially following her divorce form our dad. In January 2003 Mum suffered a series of cardiac arrests, which led to her spending a month in intensive care, and eventually she was discharged to another ward to provide palliative care. The impact of consecutive cardiac arrests left her brain seriously damaged, which resulted in some dramatic and upsetting changes to her physiology. Mum was just 39 years old when she died.

I try not to remember her in her hospital bed, dying slowly, but rather I remember our close relationship. I remember her great sense of humour, the playful glint in her eyes and that ridiculously infectious laugh that made everyone around her smile.

I am the eldest of five girls, I was aged 18 at the time of her passing and the youngest was aged just 11. As a family we struggled for years with losing our role model. Unfortunately, we did not access Touchstones or any bereavement services at the time, and looking back I acknowledge that this undoubtedly made the healing process much harder for the family.

5% of children lose a parent before the age of 16. Such a tragic loss can have a devastating effect on that child's life, not just in the aftermath but for the remainder of that child's life. Its so important that given such challenging circumstances, a child is given hope of living a normal life.

With the right support, this is possible. If you could spare anything you can, it would be massively appreciated by all. It would allow more children to get access to these services that have already steered so many children back onto the correct path. We have of course donated to Niall’s cause.

If you would like to sponsor Niall and donate to Touchstones please visit Niall’s Just Giving page. And if you feel that you or someone you know would benefit from the services that Touchstones can provide you can contact them via Facebook.

Hannah Smith