Charity revs up aid thanks to gifted bike

FIVE years ago a blood bike delivering emergency supplies to a hospital in Bristol saved the life of Daniel Lavery's wife and baby son.

Afterwards, he wanted to give something back so the 40-year-old from Honiton phoned up to find out how he could help.

He was shocked to discover Devon and Cornwall were the only counties in the country without such a service, so decided to set one up himself. Despite increasing pressure and limited resources, the Devon Freewheelers, which he founded in 2009, is now saving lives across the county on a daily basis.

And Mr Lavery and the other 18 volunteers that currently make up the team have just received a high-powered boost in the shape of a new Honda motorbike.  The group is still short of resources with such a vast region to cover but Mr Lavery said the team was delighted with the donation. The ex-police bike, which cost £4,750, has come thanks to the Exeter Foundation, set up by city businessman and Exeter Chiefs boss Tony Rowe, following collections made at Sandy Park.

Mr Lavery said: "We are delighted to have a new bike raised by money from the people of Exeter for the city of Exeter."

The service provides an out-of-hours emergency transport service for the NHS delivering emergency blood, organs and medication across the county and is run entirely by volunteers with no public funding.

"It costs £15,000 a year to run each bike," he said.

"With the new bike we now have three to service the whole county but, to put this into perspective, Bristol has 40 bikes.

"We try to offer a full service to all the hospitals but we are struggling to cope, with demands on charities increasing all the time.

"The demand is so high on us, so to receive this donation from the Exeter Foundation is amazing.

"Most of the stuff we do is extremely rewarding. The sad part is a lot of people don't know we exist and assume it is a service offered by the NHS."

Speaking of his motivation to start the charity, Mr Lavery said: "All of us have a story about a member of our family who has been saved. I nearly lost my son and wife when she went into premature labour. She received seven units of blood that arrived in Bristol on a blood bike so it saved her life.

"It was not until quite some time after that I phoned the national association of blood bikes and asked who was in charge of the local group here in Devon, as I wanted to give something back.

"They said there was no service. Devon and Cornwall were the only places in the country without one and four attempts had been made to set one up but it had gone bust.

"The first year I invested £15,000 of my own cash, bought a bike myself and ran it. I covered Devon and Cornwall on my own for 12 months before I was able to register it as a charity.

"We all work full time and a lot of the time the volunteers are self-funding the bikes to keep them going and we are hoping to attract more sponsors."

He said they would particularly welcome a Honda dealership that could help, and more volunteer mechanics.

For details on the service and how to help see


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