“We want to help people live more pain-free lives.”
On Thursday 26th September, twin brothers, Ellis and Toby from Leicester finished their incredible challenge of cycling 500 miles in less than two months to raise awareness and funds for people like their mum Cara, who is living with rheumatoid arthritis.
We spoke to the two 16-years-olds about what motivated them to take on the challenge and what they enjoy most about fundraising, and we heard from Cara on what it means to see her sons completing this challenge for people with the condition.
Ellis and Toby aren’t new to fundraising, here they explain what led them to take on the challenge.
“We do a cake sale every year at college and the sports centre to raise money for Arthritis Support Leicestershire. And have done a sponsored mile swim, but this is definitely the biggest challenge yet.
“We wanted something to keep us busy and fit during the summer and we were inspired by the Proclaimer’s song 500 miles – we thought ‘we’re identical twins, let’s cycle 500 miles in 20 miles stages.’”
The boys explain that it’s hard seeing their mum in pain: “Mum’s arthritis has been quite challenging. There’s lots of things we can’t do anymore as a family, like camping and climbing and going for long walks.
“Our grandparents are still very active, so luckily, we still do some of these things with them. We’ve walked Morecambe Bay with Cedric the Queen’s guide to raise money for charity recently, but we wish mum could be a part of it too.
“When mum’s feeling poorly or tired after a day at work, we help out at home, making cups of tea and sandwiches. We all look out for each other as a family.”
It was a big target, but the boys have exceeded their own expectations: “We’ve been doing 20 miles every weekend, 10 in the morning and 10 at night. And then we will do five miles after school some days too. We even did 10 miles on our 16th birthday!
“We set out to finish by October half term, so we’ve beaten our target, and we’ve also raised more than our fundraising goal of £250. We’d like the money raised to go towards helping people living with arthritis live more pain-free lives, and hopefully finding a cure.
“Lots of people have commented on our Versus Arthritis t-shirts and supported along the way. And every time we talk to somebody new, we’re helping to raise awareness of the condition.”
Not only have the boys enjoyed fundraising for us, but the challenge has also helped them gain independence. They said, “We have lots of different cycle routes and it’s been great exploring different areas. We go out separately sometimes, and we’re a lot fitter than when we started.
“We’ve also learnt lots of new skills, like fixing punctures and changing tyres. We wouldn’t have done any of this if we weren’t doing the challenge.
Finally, Ellis and Toby explain why there needs to be more awareness of the condition: “Most people are understanding and aware that adults can get arthritis but not many people realise you can get it so young. We’ve only learnt this through our mum’s experience.
“Mum doesn’t feel pain all the time and sometimes tries to do too much, so we remind her not to push herself too hard.
“It feels amazing to have done this challenge together and we’re already thinking about what we’re going to do next year!”
Cara was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 34. She tells us more about the impact arthritis has had on their family and what it means to see her sons completing this challenge.
“My diagnosis came as a huge shock; I didn’t know anyone else my age with it at the time.
“I was active up until that point, but now, if I’m walking anywhere further than end of my road, I’ll always take my crutches with me because they give me stability. I often lose my balance and footing easily, my crutches save me.
“I am very fortunate to work for a brilliant school who really understand my needs. This is a major thing for me. I know lots of the people who don’t get this support.
She says that Ellis and Toby have been a huge help at home when she’s needed it: “They really understand what it’s like to have a disability and even just little things like how tired I’m feeling, they will pick up on.
“It’s been hard, because I want to be able to give them all the opportunities my parents gave me. My parents are incredibly supportive and help out a lot, but I find this hard too, I feel like I should be the one looking out for them.
Cara explains that she’s never seen such incredible commitment from people so young: “Their determination and willingness to help other people is a truly an amazing thing. And through doing this challenge they’ve grown in confidence too.
“It just shows what you can achieve when you put your mind to it. The whole family are so proud. It’s a triumph and we’re so excited to see what they achieve next – the world is the limit!”
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