The Swallows Head & Neck Cancer Support Charity is a fully registered nationwide charity and has been since November 2012. They now have branches up and down the country. Their main activities involve supporting head and neck cancer sufferers, their careers, friends and family members, with practical support during their ordeal.
They are known as ‘The Swallows’ because of the difficulty many people have with swallowing, following treatment for head and neck cancer. They meet every 2nd Wednesday of the month from 11am at The Hub at South Shore, 120 Highfield Road, Blackpool and everyone affected by cancer is welcome. However, as a registered charity, much of their funding comes from members and public donations.
Following the hard work by Derek Lewthwaite, who is a member of several South Fylde lodges, much financial support has come through Masonic events. These include fund raising raffles, donations from installation meetings and other one-off presentations; normally when Derek has visited a lodge to give one of his most inspiring presentations about the work The Swallows do.
The latest fund-raising event was organised and completed by the intrepid group of cyclists from the Fylde Coast lodges, who decided to take on a sponsored bike ride from the Liver Building in Liverpool to the Masonic Hall at Barrow-in-Furness. Many of their stopping points on the way were other Masonic halls in the Province of West Lancashire. These included Southport, Preston, St Anne’s, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancaster and Ulverston.
The whole event was spread over two days and included the cyclists and a back-up team made up of South Fylde Group Charity Steward Dave McKee, South Fylde Group and Regional Publicity Officer Glenn O’Brien and Derek Lewthwaite. They ensured the transportation issues surrounding spare tyres, food, normal clothing and other bits and pieces were taken care of.
The cycling team set off from Liverpool at 8:15am on the first day, having had pictures with the statues of the Beatles. Nobody was surprised that the first punctured tyre of the trip occurred on the A565 before they got to Southport at 10:30am. Here the obligatory photo of a group chairman posing beside the Southport Group Chairman’s parking spot was taken. On this occasion it was of Steve Jelly, Group Chairman of the Blackpool Group.
A refreshment stop was all they had time for at Southport as everyone was pining for the lunchtime stop at the Olive Tree Café at Tarleton. This is a much-loved watering hole for the South Fylde lads who have dined there many times before. After some real energy food, (bacon, eggs, sausages etc), they were soon back on the road, heading for Preston Marina. Here they enjoyed some more energy drinks, (no, not beer), along with chocolate bars and bananas, then off on the last lap.
The last lap of this first day was to end at St Anne’s Masonic Hall via Freckleton and Warton. They arrived at St Anne’s at 3pm, tired but exhilarated. The following day they would gather at Poulton-le-Fylde at 8:30am am and day two would commence.
The second day began with a bright but overcast sky and seemed fairly set for a nice pleasant run to Barrow. Rested limbs and lungs eagerly swallowed up the miles to the first stop at The Stork public house at Glasson Dock. Nobody was tempted to use the pub, it was closed! Bananas, chocolate and energy drinks were again the order of the day before moving onto Lancaster and thence to Morecambe, where compulsory photos with the Eric and Ernie statues were duly taken, (these boys do like hobnobbing with the stars!). A short break here before a quick sprint up the coast road to the Shore Café at Hest Bank for lunch.
Lunch was eaten with some relish here as the team knew the next stage was the long haul to Grange-over-Sands, which was about 30 miles by road (nine miles if they could fly). Little did anyone know, as they sat with their fry-ups and bacon and egg sandwiches, what Grange had in store for them, however, their arrival in the Lake District was a bit damp. Not as damp as it was going to get though. As the intrepid cyclists set off from the railway station car park the heavens opened and it lashed it down all the way to Ulverston.
Meeting up with the support team at Ulverston Masonic Hall, the cyclists looked about as bedraggled as one can look in soaking Lycra but their spirits were not dampened in the least. Here they finished off the provisions before launching once again into the stormy Lakeland weather for the last lap to Barrow Masonic Hall.
They arrived at their final destination soaked to the skin but filled with that sense of achievement that only success despite adversity can inspire. However, they all changed very quickly into their dry clothing. The damp clothes and the damp bikes were hastily stored in the support van and off they went home. Normally, this might have been the end of the story but this, of course was a sponsored bike ride. So, in the few weeks that followed the donations were collected and counted ready for the end product, which was the presentation to The Swallows.
The sum presented at a ceremony at St Anne’s Masonic Hall was £2,600. A grand sum indeed! On receiving the cheque from Steve Jelly and South Fylde Group Chairman John Robbie Porter, Derek Lewthwaite was rendered almost speechless by the magnificent sum he was receiving. All he said at first was: “WOW!” However, he rapidly recovered and went onto thank everyone who had been involved in the enterprise for their generosity and hard work. He also sends thanks to everyone who has donated to the bike ride for their continued support for The Swallows.
Derek explained that he receives many cheques, both big and small, which are all greatly appreciated but a sum as large as this would go a long way and help the staff and members to achieve so much more in future. Dave McKee said what a pleasure it was to be able to provide that level of help and pointed out that there were still sums to be collected, so by the end of the year the sum may rise even further. Watch this space.
The cycling team included the following members in no particular order: Stephen Dobson, Chris O’Brien, Ian Ward, Simon Walker, Bob Avery, Steve Jelly, Charlie Lesniak and Paul Breedon. Charlie and Paul were guest riders.