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Cyclists touched by cancer riding from Paris for charity that supports people battling illness in Co Tyrone

The group of 27 cyclists will set off from Carrickmore on August 24

A GROUP of 27 cyclists touched by cancer are riding from Paris back home in aid of a local charity that supports people battling illness in Co Tyrone.

From beginners to experienced cyclists ranging in age from 18 to 69, the team have one main goal - to raise money for the Termonmaguirc Cancer Patients Comfort Fund.

For more than 40 years, the fund has provided financial support to patients of Carrickmore Health Centre or residents of the Termonmaguirc parish who have received a cancer diagnosis.

Robert Kelly is among those involved in the 'Eiffel to Termon Charity Cycle', after experiencing first-hand the work of the cancer support group.

"It's only when it comes to your door that it really hits home," he said.

As chairman of the Termon Wheelers cycling club, he said he was keen to use his love of cycling to give something back to the fund that helps members of the local community.

"My wife was diagnosed with cancer last November and the Termonmaguirc Cancer Patients Comfort Fund came to our house and chatted to her, they were on our side, they knew what we were going through, particularly my wife," he said.

"The support and the work that they do is fantastic and I thought to myself, I have to do something for these people.

"So I took it into my head that I was going to organise a charity cycle. I put it to the local club and hoped that members would get involved.

"I hoped to get around 20 cyclists, but we have 27 going, which is fantastic.

"Everybody is fundraising, each cyclist is raising money and the support of the community has been amazing. From spinning outside the local shops to

coffee mornings and a tractor run , it's been a full team effort."

The 555km challenge will begin on August 24 when they set off from the Milestone Centre, Carrickmore at 2am, with the cycle to begin the following day.

They will begin at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, before travelling through Normandy to Cherbourg to take the ferry to Dublin. From there, the group will make the final journey towards Carrickmore.

Mr Kelly said there is a broad range of cycling abilities amongst the team.

"We have people involved that are keen cyclists, but some had never been on a bicycle before, but they got onboard and have been training constantly," he said.

"Basically from the couch to be able to cycle 100 miles, they're doing it - it's incredible.

"The excitement will be fantastic when we set off.

"We travel from Dublin to Paris and will use that first day just to relax. Then on August 25, we will start our cycle from the Eiffel Tower and will cycle for 60 miles on the first day.

"The second day is a bit longer, 105 miles, and will take us to Bayeaux, past the Normandy Beaches to Cherbourg where we will get the ferry to Dublin.

"Then that's the big cycle home.

"We are hoping to get a police escort from the border up and hopefully we will be back in Carrickmore on August 28 around 7.30/8pm for a massive barbeque to finish off the event.

Mr Kelly said they hope to raise "as much money as possible" for the "vital work of the fund" in the local area.

"The charity is a voluntary organisation, they go around the Termonmaguirc area helping people," he said.

"If any person registered with their surgery has been diagnosed with cancer, they will contact them and see what help they can provide.

"From help with mortgages, new beds, emotional support - all sorts of things they help with.

"There's at least 10 cyclists that have some sort of close value to Termonmaguirc Cancer Patients Comfort Fund, which is amazing.

"We got the emotional support from them, that's what we needed and that's what we got and we were so thankful for it.

"I broke down crying when they came round, it's only when it comes to your door that it really hits home.

"They're all volunteers, but they're there for people and provide such a fantastic service to people throughout our community, they deserve our help."

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