A Derry man is planning to cycle 100 miles to his father’s native town, in a charity awareness drive for the Alzheimer’s Society.
Christopher Fagan’s father Pasty - who was a manager of the former Superfare Supermarket, on Greenhaw Road, for 26 years - was diagnosed with Dementia back in 2011.
Patsy (84) was born in Newcastle, County Down, and later moved to Derry where he raised his family.
His son, Christopher, is currently organising a fundraising drive for the Alzheimer’s Society ahead of his epic cycling challenge.
The event is due to take place in late August, and he is urging other local people to join him on the cycle or for part of the route.
Christopher said he and his family know first hand the impact Dementia has on people and how vital the support from the Alzheimer’s Society is.
He said Dementia had changed his father in so many ways - physically, mentally and socially.
“One of the things that really hit me was that everyone viewed him as this well-known, well established man, and watching him deteriorate was like this great fall. People you meet might say he is looking great, but they don’t see behind closed doors,” he noted.
“Witnessing the tortuous impacts it has had on him and on us as a family, our challenges have shaped us. I believe it has given us the opportunity to act, aiming to help those facing the challenges of living with Dementia.”
Christopher came up with idea for the cycle after his younger brother, Conal, last year organised a sky dive for the Alzheimer’s Society. The Derry man is also currently studying medicine at Durham University and part of his course this year was focusing on Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and this spurred him on to organise the cycle and set up a Just Giving fundraising page.
He said: “I was actually so surprised by the support. I was originally intending to do this by myself, but a lot of people have messaged me and said if they are free they would come along and do it as well, even people I haven’t spoken to in a long time.”
There are currently more than 20,000 people who have been diagnosed with Dementia in the north and the figures are expected to rise over the coming years as average life expectancy increases.
“The Alzheimer’s Society does great work, not just with the individuals, but with their families as well. The impact on families is huge.
“When I was applying for Medicine at university they told me about the advantages of having some experience, and I started voluntary work in the hospital in 2013.
“I was working a lot with elderly people and a lot of them had Alzheimer’s and Dementia so I was seeing that from an external point of view and then going home and seeing it all in front of me.
“ As dad’s condition has progressed it is hard on the whole family, my mum especially, who has been the primary carerfrom the start.
“My cycle aims to raise awareness of the importance of understanding dementia and its impacts, as it is becoming increasingly prevalent in our ageing society.
And also, to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society, who do great work to support those suffering from the disease. More and more responsibility is being put on families to look after people and I wanted to highlight the support in case people maybe don’t know.”
Christopher said he hopes by speaking on his experiences it will help to gather support for the cause and “spread the word to encourage others to join me in the cycle or to help with fundraising in other ways.
“At the end of my 100 miles, I also aim to climb the Mourne Mountains in Newcastle, symbolising that we, as a society, can surmount Dementia.
“In spirit, I’ll be taking dad with me.”
Speaking directly to local people he added: “As we must be ‘United Against Dementia,’ I welcome all of you to join me in my efforts.
“If you would like to cycle the journey, just a small stretch or the full distance, I’d be massively grateful for your support.
“There are many ways you can help with fundraising, so any time you have to offer is much appreciated.”
To donate to Christopher’s Justgiving page go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/100milesforPatsy
To find out more about the charity cycle event or to sign up for it, contact Christopher through his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/christopher.fagan.148.