Bamburgh or bust for couples

Selkirk couple Kenny and Shirley Houston aren’t people who will ever duck a challenge.

By News Desk
Monday, 6th July 2020, 10:30 am
Next stop Bamburgh! From left: Kenny and Shirley Houston with Ann and Andrew McKerracher.
Next stop Bamburgh! From left: Kenny and Shirley Houston with Ann and Andrew McKerracher.

So when the Etape Loch Ness cycling event was cancelled back in April because of Covid-19 restrictions, the pair were determined to keep their fund-raising plans on track.

Kenny, a retired police officer, and Shirley, a support officer at Hawick Police Station, had originally planned to participate in the Etape along with close friends Andrew and Ann McKerracher of Ettrickbridge.

By completing the 66-mile course, the four friends hoped to raise funds for the Katie McKerracher Trust – a charity established in 2009 in memory of the McKerrachers’ 11-year-old daughter Katie, who died on January 27 that year from diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (a brain tumour on her brain stem).

Having already raised over £3,000 in sponsorship for the cancelled Loch Ness event, the friends felt duty-bound to plan another ride, and decided to complete a similarly distanced route on Saturday, August 1, from the McKerrachers’ home at Ettrickbridge to Bamburgh.

“Our family have very close ties with that area,” said Kenny. “My mother Rhona belonged to Belford, which is very close to Bamburgh, and all my childhood holidays were spent down there so I have special memories of that part of Northumberland.”

Diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2013, Kenny has made it his mission since then to repay the dedication and kindness of the NHS staff treating him, by raising as much money as possible in support of their work.

In 2015 he organised a black tie dinner and auction in support of the BGH’s Borders Cancer Centre and the Katie McKerracher Trust, with each organisation receiving a sum in excess of £10,000.

Last April, he staged a dinner-dance and auction in Selkirk’s Haining House, raising a further £11,000 for the Borders Cancer Centre.

“This will be my last fund-raiser,” added Kenny, who has undergone five major surgeries over the past five years, and is currently deferring treatment until his next medical assessment in August.

“I’m delighted the four of us are raising funds for the Katie McKerracher Trust. Shirley and I were extremely fond of Katie, and the trust has done an amazing job of supporting DIPG patients and their families over the past 11 years.”

To donate, click here.

To date, cycling events have played a major role in the Katie McKerracher Trust’s fund-raising efforts.

“Our first big fund-raiser was a Hebridean Cycle Challenge in 2010,” said Ann McKerracher, a foster parent and achievement coach at Borders College.

“Then the following year supporters raised funds at the Ken Laidlaw Sportive in Hawick.

“Since its formation in 2009, the trust has assisted DIPG patients and their families in a variety of ways. This can be answering questions by sending copies of our DIPG information booklet, providing assistance to deal with practical day-of-day issues, or working with health professionals to seek to improve treatment of DIPG patients.

”We’ve seen a big increase in requests recently,” added Ann, “and of course during lockdown these patients have had to be especially careful about not picking up any infections.”

Ann and her husband Andrew, who is vice-president procurement and supply chain for Galashiels-based pharmaceutical firm Kyowa Kirin International plc, have been out cycling on local roads training for the Bamburgh event.

“I’m definitely the most inexperienced rider of the group,” said Ann, “but we’re all definitely up for the ‘Brigend to Bamburgh Challenge’, which should be a really fun experience.”

Kenny, meanwhile, has cycled over 1,500 miles since March, so is understandably raring to go.

The quartet will leave Ettrickbridge at 8am on August 1, and will make stops at feed stations in Coldstream and Fenwick, both of which will be manned by friends and family members.

“We’re hoping to complete the route in about six hours,” added Kenny, “and have booked an overnight stay in a Seahouses hotel. We’d like to say a big thank you to everbody who is supporting us, and to let people know that our JustGiving page is still open should anyone wish to make a donation.”