A helicopter pilot from Aberdeen man will be embarking on an epic cycle trek through Kenya’s Rift Valley this October to raise awareness of the plights of sports tetraplegics and paraplegics.
52-year-old Gary Queen will ride 400 miles along with five tetraplegics who are people unable to walk or have limited reach and dexterity because the use of their arms is severely impaired.
In his current role, Gary flies men and women to offshore oil rigs, and previously worked as a search and rescue pilot operating from bases in Holland, Ireland and the UK.
For his second fundraising cycle in Africa, Gary Now, Mr Queen will again be taking part on behalf of Remain, which is the only charitable organisation dedicated solely to improving the independence of all British men and women who have become tetraplegic as a result of a sporting or leisure accident.
Gary initially became involved with the charity by chance in 2013 after reading an article about Regain and their work. He says he experienced “a rush of blood to the head” and headed to South Africa to complete his first cycle challenge.
“Initially my aim was just to complete the 400-mile course,” Gary said.
“We were accompanied by five tetraplegics but unfortunately, their electric tricycles quickly broke down in the heat and dust.
“It became very clear, very quickly that my efforts paled into insignificance when I realised not only the extent of the mental trauma, helplessness and frustration felt on a daily basis by the tetraplegics but also the unconditional love and support given by their carers 24 hours a day,” he added.
Becoming part of the ‘towing’ team, Gary helped pull the tetraplegics along to ensure they completed the seven-day-challenge.
His 400 mile cycle will begin in the mountainous region of Nyeri, traversing rough tracks, tropical rainforests, towns and plantations until he and his team reach the shores of Lake Victoria in Southern Kenya.
He said: “It is heartbreaking when you consider that each of these incredible people had at one time been fit and strong.
“Regain’s aim is to assist these unfortunate men and women to ‘regain’ some purpose in their lives and help them achieve their physical and mental goals by providing specialist wheel chairs so that they can compete in sport.”
However, before departing for Kenya in October, Gary is trying to raise £3,500 in donations.
To help him raise his fundraising target, he will be hosting a charity gin tasting night at the Marcliffe Hotel next month which will feature a gin tasting presentation, raffle prizes and a soon-to-be-announced guest speaker.