Two-wheeled heroes call for volunteers

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Two wheels will get you a long way, and nobody knows that better than a blood biker.

Kind-hearted Derbyshire riders have been using their motorcycles to come to the rescue of many needing medical supplies in hospitals throughout the county.

From breast milk to a pint of the red stuff – you name it and the Derbyshire Blood Bikes has transported it.

The charity was initially set up in March 2011 by a group of advanced motorcyclists from the Derbyshire Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists Group. Charity status was granted in August 2011.

And since then the work of the charity has snowballed. What started out as a small volunteering project has grown into 27 riders, who racked up around 45,000 miles just last year alone. Routes include to the Royal Derby Hospital, Chesterfield Royal Hospital, Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, walk-in centres and the Donor Milk Bank in Birmingham.

This is why rider coordinator Mark Vallis has called for new potential volunteers to get in touch.

Mark, 56, said the aim was to help the NHS reduce the cost of transporting blood and other products by providing an out-of-hours transport service free of charge.

Mark, from Heanor, said: “In 2016 our calls massively increased. At the end of the year there was more than 750 runs across two hospitals. 
“We estimate to be saving the NHS around £40,000 by transporting for free, and this year is busier than the last, even at this early stage.”

The charity is always on the lookout for new riders and volunteers and has hosted a string of welcome events fundrasisers across the borough over the last month.

The Derbyshire bikers received a £5,000 donation from Toyota Community Foundation last week, after hearing about the work they do.

Mark added: “We were thrilled to be given such a generous donation, especially when there are so many worthy causes out there.

“But we do really need all the help we can get. Last year I would estimate it cost around £13,000 to keep everything ticking over, and costs are only set to increase.

“Funding goes towards the cost of bikes, maintenance, general wear and tear and fuel – which is on the rise.

“But it’s not just about finances, we would really love to take on more riders.

“I have been riding for two years with charity and it is unbelievably rewarding.

“Being able to feel appreciated for doing something you love whilst serving the purpose of helping to save lives is absolutely priceless.”

A large amount of journeys take the riders out of the county to places such as the National Blood Centre in Sheffield.

But most recently Mark and several other riders were involved in a couple of trips to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The trip was to transport samples of a 12-year-old who was undergoing a heart transplant.

“It is things like that you hear that make the job worthwhile. I don’t normally ask why we are transporting anything, it’s what we have volunteered for so I like to just get on with it. But on this occasion it was two trips in quick succession, so I asked. And hearing about that youngsters battle brought it home to me, that what the blood bikers do really does help save lives – it is amazing.”

Mark said the charity would benefit from between five and ten new riders, which would take the pressure off others.

For insurance purposes you need to be at least 25 years old to ride, and need to have completed advanced rider training.

But anyone who meets those requirements are welcome says Mark.

“If you’re fit, healthy and have the time to give then we would love to hear form you. If you don’t ride you could still give us a hand, donating your time at fundraisers. We are massively underrepresented by females with only one part of the riders, we would love to welcome more.”

Branch co-founder and chairman Robert Whitmore, added: “We ride to save lives – it is hugely rewarding to know what we do helps others more than we could ever know. It is time consuming, but it’s worth every second.

“I get a massive buzz and feel extremely proud when I see a blood bike on the road doing a run.

“I hope that this year is busy with many more runs and that we get more riders to help us and continue to build. We aim to increase our profile – helping more departments in hospitals so they will use our services.

“Please help to support our cause. We receive no monetary support from the government and raise funds through events, sponsorship and collecting tins.

“We would welcome as many riders as possible to get involved and back a great cause – two wheels can get you a long way.”

To find out more information visit www.derbyshirebloodbikes.org.