Kevin Derrett – Programmes Facilitator at CGM CRC
CGM CRC Programmes Facilitator Kevin Derrett took the open road this summer in an epic motorbike ride to help military veterans. The ride saw experienced volunteer bikers riding with veterans, who all have health problems arising from their service, riding as pillion passengers on specially adapted Harley Davidson’s.
Kevin, undertook the challenge with Dennis Bridge, who is also a retired Cheshire and Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC) employee, first got the idea at a bike show in Manchester where the pair encountered a stall raising money for bike tours for injured veterans.
“My dad was a soldier, my daughter was in the Royal Navy and Denis’ sons were all in the army. We’ve done a few charity rides in the past but this was much bigger than anything we’d ever attempted before. But after talking to the guys from Blue Cucumber we knew we had to do it, we knew we couldn’t refuse giving guys who can’t ride for themselves such an amazing opportunity.”
Blue Cucumber run their wounded warrior tours in support of Bike Tours for the Wounded, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company that supports both serving members and veterans of the UK’s armed forces. Kevin and Dennis chose the Route66 Tour, a ten day odyssey through the south-western United States, covering nearly 2,500 miles, and taking in some of America’s most iconic sights.
“As soon as we’d decided to do the ride we knew we would have to start raising the money. Veterans are paid for by charitable donations but riders have to fund their own places.
“Due to a late cancellation a vacancy on our route unexpectedly opened up. We thought about it and decided that regardless of the tight timescale we’d go for it. That of course meant that we had literally only thee weeks to raise the money, and this at a time when I was saving up to get married!”
Kevin ended up selling his own beloved motorbike to raise the £3,500 needed to secure his place as well as cashing in most of his leave entitlement. Luckily Kevin was able to supplement his existing entitlement, with two additional paid days leave, through the companies ‘Give A Day of Your Time’ scheme, which allows employees to donate their time to charitable causes without being out of pocket or having to use up their leave entitlement.
“Being able to draw on the Give a Day scheme was a big help. In fact the people at CGM CRC were wonderful in their support right across the board and my colleagues contributed generously to the funds needed to send wounded veterans out on these trips.”
With funding secure Kevin and Denis, along with 12 other volunteer riders, set out on their epic adventure.
“We all met up at the airport, riders and vets, and the long flight gave us all a chance to learn about each other. The guys running things were all themselves ex-military and the logistics underpinning the ride were phenomenal. They were able to tell us to within 15 minutes which town we were going to be arriving at and exactly who and what would be waiting for us. And the local people could not have been more friendly and helpful.
“Pretty soon we we’re on the road and I have to say that both Dennis and me agreed that it was both physically and emotionally a lot harder than we’d anticipated. You’re starting at 6.30am and you’ll do 240 miles before breakfast, and your riding until seven or eight at night.
“That sounds like a bikers dream and I can’t deny that the roads, the mountains and the hills were just breath-taking. But you’re going from 6am when its frozen solid to 120 degrees in the Arizona dessert within two hours, where riding is like having a hot hair dryer blowing in your face. Plus you’re always conscious that you’re responsible for someone on the bike for all those miles.
“In the evenings at the hotel we’d all talk and in a short space of time we formed a very close bond. Many of the lads had been through an awful lot and they had the scars, both physical and mental, to show foe it, including in some cases PTSD, the unseen enemy.
“The veterans had a deep rooted respect for one another with the younger ones getting support from those who had fought in earlier conflicts, and they were all delighted to be doing things they never thought they’d ever be able to do again.”
Support was also forthcoming from back home: “ My partner works at a school and she used this to teach the children. Every day they followed us everyday on the internet, tracking the route and talking about the places we were going to and the things we were seeing.”
CGM CRC Interchange Manager Dave Nixon said: “Kevin is a great guy and it came as no surprise when he came to me and told me he wanted some time off to take on a project to help others. But what was surprising was the sheer scale what was involved.
It takes a lot of commitment to see something like that through, both personal and financial, and Kevin has put so much into helping these guys, who themselves have given so much. Everybody here at CGM CRC is so very proud of what our colleague has done, and he should be very proud of himself too.”
Many of those places included some truly unforgettable sights such as the Hoover Damn and the Grand Canyon, but after ten long days the most welcome sight of all was that of his fiancée waiting to meet him at Stockport Station.
“I was so tired and so glad to be home and to see her again, and as soon as she saw me she said “You’re going again aren’t you?”
“I said yes as soon as possible. “I knew it” she said “How could you not.””
CGM CRC works to help former members of the British Armed Forces who’ve had any contact with the Criminal Justice System. Our Ex-Forces Action Network (E-FAN) can provide an individual assessment for each eligible client and refer them to specialist help and assistance, as well as providing access to a number of entirely new opportunities created by E-FAN. To find out more go here.