Mark Stephenson, CEO of PWS, together with four veterans, PWS colleagues and support riders and staff have completed the gruelling 320-mile Blood Sweat & Gears cycling and, in doing so, powered through their £250,000 fundraising target in aid of Help For Heroes. 

The route represented an immense physical challenge to the injured veterans and support riders alike and the months of hard winter training certainly paid off when they were faced with 22,000 feet of punishing climbs.  The 6-day challenge, across the Western Cape of South Africa, started in Franschhoek and was brought to a triumphant close in Knysna, often in very unpleasant and inclement weather conditions, including strong headwinds, hail and heavy rain. 

Comments Mark Stephenson, CEO at PWS: “What started off as a pie-in-the-sky idea for me, quickly grew to become an exceptional project. Blood Sweat & Gears has surpassed all my expectations and turned into something extremely special that stirred up so many emotions for all involved.

“I have a genuine feeling of pride knowing that we will help to change some lives, not only for the incredible veterans who took part, but for many more who will benefit from the money raised. 

“We have already nailed the £250,000 target and with donations pledged by corporates, plus some additional fundraising activities to come, we will be edging closer to reaching £300,000 soon. It represents a staggering performance by everyone involved.  My sincere thanks go to all our very generous suppliers and customers who have so kindly supported the challenge and made it such a great success.”

Staff at PWS embraced the project, so much so, they instigated their own Watt-bike challenge to coincide with the team cycling in South Africa. Competing against local company Baltic

Training and students at Sedbergh School, the three teams battled it out over four days for the greatest cumulative distance. Youth won over experience, however the combined money raised was over £9000 so every team felt as though they were worthy winners.

The money raised from Blood Sweat & Gears will go directly to Phoenix House, the Help For Heroes Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison to fund psychological wellbeing programmes over the coming years. Mark Stephenson has been a regular supporter of Help For Heroes for a number of years, from donating adapted kitchens to two of their Recovery Centres through to hosting vocational training to support veterans in their employment resettlement. 

The four veterans included Jon Knott, a recumbent cyclist who served in the RAF but was discharged when he developed Multiple Sclerosis, and Sean Donlan, who suffered severe brain injury following an explosion caused by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The team spirit throughout the ride was phenomenal and Jon summed this up perfectly when he said: “We started as a team, we finished as a team.”  The team also included two Rugby World Cup winners, Will Greenwood MBE and Morne Du Plessis as well as PWS directors John Lennon and Jonathan Whisker.  

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