A NINE-year-old schoolgirl from Shalbourne has cycled 95 miles to raise £1,000 for Alzheimer’s research in memory of her beloved aunt.
Ellie Barker undertook the challenge with her dad, pedalling the length of the Kennet and Avon Canal and camping out at night.
She told her mother, Susie, that she was inspired to raise the cash after her aunt Lisa contracted an early onset form of the degenerative brain disease and died, aged just 49.
She had been battling the condition since being diagnosed in her thirties.
Mrs Barker said Ellie had even fallen into the canal during the first part of the challenge, while still near her home.
She said: “I thought, ‘she’s going to stop this now’, because she was cold and frightened.
“Luckily, the canal runs quite close to our house, so I went down and picked her up, got her bathed and changed, and I said, ‘what do you want to do now love?’
“She replied: ‘I think we’re running a bit behind time now, Mummy, so we better get back to it.’
“She was an absolute star and just blew us all away.”
Mrs Barker, who helped Ellie with the fundraising, said the family was amazed by the response to her daughter’s cycling challenge.
She added: “One person pulled over at the canal bank walk and asked Ellie and her dad what they were doing.
“He gave them some money because his wife had Alzheimer’s
“Sadly, this is clearly a universal experience.
“So many people have lost a loved one to dementia.”
Ellie’s triumph means she has joined more than 500 cyclists who have already signed up to Alzheimer’s Research UK’s new initiative, Cycling Down Dementia, which was launched at the beginning of November.
The challenge asks supporters to take on a 300 or 1,000-mile cycling challenge to raise vital funds for dementia research.
The senior sporting events manager for Alzheimer’s Research UK Kenneth Foreman said: “We are so impressed at Ellie’s resolve in taking on this challenge and raising vital funds for dementia research in honour of her aunt.
“There are more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and this number is set to rise.
“That is why it’s so important that we work together to end the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.
“The vital funds raised by Ellie will power world-class dementia research projects helping to shape our understanding of the condition and open the door to new treatments.”
For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org