Cyclist raises $23,300 for research

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014
 Ohau man John Smithies’
REWARDING JOURNEY: Ohau man John Smithies’ Cape Reinga to Bluff trip raised more than $23,000 for Leukemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

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John Smithies' old bike has gone a long way to raise money for blood cancer research.

The 72 year-old Ohau Village resident rode from Cape Reinga to Bluff on a "vintage model" bicycle to raise money for Leukemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. Yesterday, he presented a cheque of $23,300 to the organisation.

Smithies said he wanted to do something to honour his late wife, Alison, who died in 2011 after a 12-year struggle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

He began his trip in September last year, and reached Bluff in late November.

People pledged money throughout the trip, but it has only been in the last week that he has managed to collect all the donations.

"It picked up a life of its own, which was both surprising and gratifying. I envisaged this as a ‘one bloke on a bike' trip. My wife and I had talked about doing something like this. Yet so many groups decided to come on board."

Smithies estimated the Masonic Lodges' contribution was worth more than $9000.

"While I was on the bike, there were even some who decided to ride along with me," he said.

"So many people welcomed me into their homes."

Leukemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand's partnerships manager Matthew McCracken said the money would go towards patient support and education. The organisation has four paid patient support staff, and would be recruiting a Christchurch-based staff member soon.

"John's story is inspiring. It's not just the fact he decided to embark on this journey, but all the people who helped him along the way," McCracken said.

Smithies said the 70 year-old bike "lasted pretty well" - he required only three tyre changes during the trip. "It was a sturdy thing. It was a vintage model, but it kept on going. "But I would gladly do a trip like this again. It was as if my wife was on my shoulder the whole way."

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- The Timaru Herald

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