“This year, we decided to up the ante and attempt a similar distance but in a single day. When we planned the journey we wanted to include a football twist, as it was such a huge part of Leon’s life, so we arranged to set off from Accrington Stanley’s Wham Stadium and cycle along the canal to Liverpool’s Anfield stadium and then return in the same day.
“When we realised it was 136 miles, we knew it would be hard, but Leon’s greatest wish was to leave a legacy and by raising money as part of #TeamCallon we would be doing just that. The total pot stands at almost £60,000 so it is definitely achieving what Leon would’ve wanted, and we knew we couldn’t fail in our efforts.”
Ben, 32, from Rishton, added: “The 2am alarm was a harsh realisation that the challenge day had arrived! After weeks of training, myself, Andy and Johnny met up in the pitch black darkness outside Accrington Stanley and set off at 4am sharp. Despite a flat tyre in the first 20 miles, we made steady time and arrived at Anfield at 11.30am to be greeted by family and friends. A quick picnic lunch and bike pit stop and off we went again.
“The way back was so much more difficult, but thankfully the weather stayed fine and we were cheered along at regular stops on the return journey. Leon’s mum and dad were also there to give us some much-needed motivation and encouragement.
“We finally arrived back at Accrington Stanley at 8pm to a big crowd of supporters and we toasted 16 hours in the saddle with a well-deserved beer!”
Leon was initially referred to St Catherine’s to one of the hospice’s speciality doctors in 2017, and later started seeing the charity’s community Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) team, who visit people in their own homes and helped Leon put plans in place for his care at the end of his life. He died in the hospice’s inpatient unit in March, aged just 36.
“The staff at St Catherine’s do such amazing work and in the time he spent there in the last few weeks of his life, they made sure he was comfortable and allowed friends and family to visit and spend time with Leon whenever he was up to having visitors,” Ben added. “We plan to do more fundraising for the hospice in Leon’s honour, and will have to think of something even more challenging and exciting for next year!”
Emma Jacovelli, head of community engagement at St Catherine’s Hospice, said: “Leon’s friends and family have been incredible in raising so much money for St Catherine’s – we’re so grateful for their continued, wonderful support.
“It costs £5.2million to run the charity every year – from our inpatient unit and CNS team, to our outpatient clinics and Family Support Team. We have to generate a staggering £3.5million of that through charitable and fundraising efforts, so we simply wouldn’t be able to provide our specialist palliative and end-of-care without the support of our communities.
“I’d like to say a very special ‘thank you’ to Ben, Andy and Johnny and the rest of #TeamCallon for everything they have done for us so far. I’m excited to see what they come up with next!”