Cyclist endures ‘toughest challenge’ for dementia research in honour of grandparents

06 June 2018

A cycling enthusiast from Gosforth took on the toughest cycle ride of his life to help find a cure for dementia after seeing three of his grandparents diagnosed with the devastating condition.

Chris Higham with his daughters and grandad

Chris Higham with his daughters and grandad

Chris Higham, Head of Strategy and Change at Virgin Money was joined by 10 of his colleagues for a coast to coast challenge. Over two days, the group – known as the ‘Bankers on their Bikes’ – cycled 130 miles and climbed 10,000ft on their journey from Whitehaven on the west coast to Tynemouth on the east coast.

Virgin Money Cycle Challenge

Virgin Money Cycle Challenge

Each year, Chris and a team from the Gosforth-based company undertake a gruelling cycle ride for the bank’s Corporate Charity of the Year. This time, they were fundraising for the Dementia Revolution – a special one-year campaign from Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, who have joined forces as Charity of the Year for Virgin Money and the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon. Through the Dementia Revolution, the two charities will power groundbreaking research and lead the charge towards a cure for dementia.

This year’s challenge in particular meant more to Chris having seen first-hand the heartbreak dementia causes. Three of the 36-year-old’s grandparents have lived with dementia, while one of his wife’s grandparents has also been diagnosed with the condition.

Chris said:

“Dementia is something that has affected nearly all the older people in my family. What makes it so hard is that your loved ones seem physically fit, but they are no longer the person you knew, and it affects people so differently. I remember the last time I saw my nan before she died, she was not the same person at all, she couldn’t even remember my name. And after completing this year’s challenge, I found out that my remaining grandparent may have to be moved into residential care because of the severity of his dementia, which made this ride even more important to me.

“Dementia is something we seem to be seeing every day and that’s why we must find a cure. It’s not something that will just impact me and my children, but generations to come, unless we discover the treatments we desperately need. That’s why I’m so pleased that Virgin Money is supporting the Dementia Revolution this year.”

Speaking about the challenge, he added:

“It was a lot harder than what we thought it was going to be. At the end, there was a disbelief that we had done it! There were lots of up and downs – we really had to keep each other going over the two days, particularly to get people through the climbs. But it was an amazing experience, we got to see some incredible views and I was ecstatic when we got to the end.

“What really helped was the amazing support we received from our friends, family and colleagues. Sponsorship kept coming through over the two days, which showed us that this cause really means something to a lot of people.”

The team has raised over £1,410 for the Dementia Revolution so far – but are hoping to hit the £2,000 mark. Almost a million people are living with dementia in the UK, but there are currently no effective treatments to slow, prevent or cure it. The money will be used to support the UK’s most ambitious dementia research endeavour, the UK Dementia Research Institute.

Jade Rolph, Corporate Partnerships Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“A huge well done to all of the ‘Bankers on their Bikes’ for completing this incredibly tough cycle challenge for the Dementia Revolution. This was a fantastic event to kickstart the fundraising efforts at Virgin Money. When you hear stories like Chris’, it highlights why we must do everything we can to find a cure for dementia and save people from the heartache it causes. With Virgin Money by our side, we will be able to end dementia.”

To support the Bankers on their Bikes, you can make a donation here: