South West charity launches rickshaw ride to fund pioneering trials

A South West-based charity has launched a fundraising challenge to fund a £1 million stem cell trial which will benefit Multiple Sclerosis (MS) sufferers worldwide.

Fundraisers at Bristol and Avon Multiple Sclerosis Centre (BrAMS), plan to complete a rickshaw ride from Clifton Suspension Bridge to Tower Bridge in London.

The Bridge to Bridge Rickshaw Challenge will begin on 25 May 2012, in line with World MS Day, with the team hoping to finish on 28 May.

The 200-kilo cycle-rickshaws will be powered by a fundraiser while carrying an MS sufferer at all times. The teams plan to travel an average of 30-miles per day over a combination of flat and hilly terrain.

The idea for the event came from Kieran Murphy, whose girlfriend Maria Flook was diagnosed with MS six years ago, and who utilises the facilities at BrAMS. Kieran wanted to plan an event that himself and Maria could do together to raise money for the cause.

He said: “I eventually decided on the Rickshaw Challenge as it is something myself and Maria can do together; I will be riding the rickshaw while Maria is a passenger in the back. It started as a small personal event but it has grown to three rickshaws and a whole team of volunteers, which is fantastic! I actually thought of the challenge before Matt Baker did it for The One Show, but he demonstrated how difficult it is going to be!”

The couple, from Longwell Green, have been fundraising for the charity since its inception three years ago, including taking part in charity skydives, 10k runs, football matches and bike rides. The last event raised £800 and Kieran began by wanting to beat this target.

“The event has just grown and grown and we’d love to raise as much of the £1 million needed for the stem cell trials as possible. We’re appealing to the people of Bristol to get behind us and the funds raised could really put Bristol on the map as a pioneering medical centre.”

Maria said: “I’ve been visiting BrAMS since it opened and it is the most wonderful place. Having MS treatment here is more than picking up drugs, it’s about the care and attention that makes my day more manageable. It’s like coming home to family and I don’t know what I’d do without it as my support system.

“Day-to-day living is made extremely difficult by having MS but this event is fabulous because it makes everyone equal – we’re all going to conquer it together and hopefully raise an amount that will make a difference.”

The cutting-edge stem cell treatment being trialled at BrAMS involves taking patients’ own bone marrow stem cells and injecting them into their veins in order to repair damage done by MS. It is pioneering work in both the UK and worldwide.

BrAMS head of fundraising Shaun McCarthy, who is also an MS sufferer said: “This is going to be our biggest fundraising event ever. Last year we did a Mongolian Rally which raised £55,000 but this year we want to raise even more, as people can really see what the money is going towards.

“However, it is not only the money; we want to raise awareness for the cause as well. People nationwide could be affected by the work we are doing and millions of lives could be changed.

“The ride is going to be a very challenging one, especially on the first couple of days which will be very hilly, but we already have a great team of volunteers so all riders can take it in turns. We hope people along the route come out to support us and we’re appealing to local businesses for sponsorship.”

For more information about the Bridge to Bridge Rickshaw Challenge please visit or follow them on Twitter @bramsrickshaw.

To donate to the BrAMS Bridge to Bridge Rickshaw Challenge please visit or text BRAM50 followed by the amount you would like to donate to 70070 e.g. BRAM50 £10.