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750km Cycle in 7days that raised $100,000 

In late 2016, Lewis Hender 24, and some mates went for a bike ride.. An epic 750km (Melbourne to Adelaide) in 7 days bike ride that raised an enormous $100,000 for the Queensland Brain Institute. Inspired to "do something good" after losing Mum Rhonda to brain cancer, Lewis and the incredible Ride for Rhonda team did exactly that. The ride wasn't just a show of physical strength from the 5 riders though. With a focussed team and many more people jumping behind their cause to donate, Ride For Rhonda showed the power that can come from getting out there and 'doing something good'.

 TOM DUNN: Can you introduce the team behind Ride for Rhonda (RFR) and how did you all meet?

My name is Lewis Hender (24) the other riders included, Charlie Hender (22,brother), Darcy Collett (25, cousin), Jed Redden (22, Friend) and Lachy Earl (26, Friend). Obviously myself and Charlie have always been close, as we have both been with our cousin Darcy. Charlie, Jed and myself grew up in Keith in country South Australia and have been great mates ever since. I met Lachy through football and Lachy, Charlie, Jed and myself, in particular, have been great mates for several years. Other members of the group included Josh Marton (26, Friend), Lachy Kellock (24, Cousin), Dave O’Shaughnessy (Friend), Andrew Cousins (Friend) and Richard Forbes (Family Friend. All of these guys were either involved in the organisation of ride or as part of our support crew.

TD: RFR began after your mum Rhonda Kellock passed away from aggressive brain cancer. Who first came up with the cycling idea and how did you manage to turn grief into a story of positivity?

Charlie initially came up with the idea of riding, however I think even before mum passed away we had briefly discussed about doing something at some point to raise money. The initial conversations occurred between Charlie and our great family friend Richard Forbes, who was very close with both mum and dad. He was the one who suggested we donate the money raised to the Queensland Brain Institute and he was instrumental in the organisation and in the ride itself.After mum passed away we just felt as if we had a great opportunity to do something good and to hopefully help people who have been affected by brain cancer. I know that if mum had more time she would've wanted to do something similar, and I think that is what drove us to make sure we gave it a good crack.

TD: Your trip fundraised for the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) (linking to your Mum's story) and incredibly raised over $100,000 for the organisation. Your fundraising has made such a big impact to QBI that they now have a research project in your Mum's name. Has the success exceeded what you dreamed of when you first discussed the idea? 

I'm not sure the money we raised was the most surprising thing. Yes, our initial goal was $50,000, however myself and Charlie felt we could definitely give $100,000 a good shake. In saying that, what did exceed our expectation was the amount of people that supported us. We received hundreds of thank-you messages from people who we had no connection with at all, and that was just as incredible. As was the support we received from family and friends.

TD: Your home community of Keith really got behind the RFR cause and you've estimate that Keith alone raised a good percentage of the overall total. How special was it to be supported by your home town? 

I remember when we got to Keith Charlie made a brief speech. Just to thank the community and especially thank those who had supported mum and our family both when she was sick, and after she had passed away. He said that we were so grateful for what they had all done for us but that he wasn’t surprised nor did we expect anything less, and he was spot on. That town is just incredible, and yes they supported us incredibly and we will never forget that. What is most special about Keith though is that the people there support everyone who has ever had anything to do with the town and we are lucky enough to have spent a large part of our life there.

TD: Would you say you did this trip for QBI, for your mum, or for yourselves?

We did it for mum. QBI will hopefully benefit from what we have done, and I think it's important that we thank them for their support and acknowledge the incredible work they do. We (RFR team) also benefited from the ride significantly. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I'm sure the other boys will agree, but there is no doubt that we did it for mum, and that is why we asked people who were close to us and mum to be involved.

TD: Getting into the trip itself, Melbourne to Adelaide. 750km in 7 days. It's definitely no simple task! Did you find it easier or tougher than you expected? 

Yeah, it was tough. There is no doubt about that. I think it was tougher than what we first expected, but once we started we knew we couldn't just stop, so you sort of just stop worrying about it. 

TD: Was there a lot of preparation and training heading into the trip? 

We probably didn’t get  to prepare as much as we would’ve liked. We were all working or studying or both, and it was difficult. Myself and Charlie spent most of our spare time organising the ride from a logistical point of view more so than a physical one. However, we all play sport and felt we were prepared well enough to make it through.

TD: Travelling in a team can have it's benefits and it's limitations. Once on the road did you find that the 5 of you were pushing each other forward, or were there times when you wished you could ride alone? 

No, I certainly never felt I could ride alone. Riding solo is much more difficult than it is with in a group. As we are all good mates it made it pretty good fun too. That being said, there were definitely times that we started to annoy each other, but again, we were driven to get it done.

TD: Who was the best and worst cyclist?

Charlie was definitely the worst, and I’m sure he will even admit that haha. Lachy was probably the best however Darcy was pretty strong also. For the majority of the ride we could all comfortably ride together though. It was the hills that separated us and that's where we found out who the good riders were.

TD: Riding road bikes and travelling with a support crew, you were able to ride with a light and fast kit. What's one comfort modification you would add to your bike if you were to do it again? 

We were pretty well prepared so I'm not sure there are any comfort modifications that I would make. I don’t think you can make the riding part any more comfortable anyway. We received massages along the way, we were fed constantly by volunteers and friends, we had great accommodation, we had cycling experts supply our bikes and ensure we were well prepared so we were pretty lucky in that sense.

TD: What was the toughest moment of the trip? The first kilometer, a moment while cycling, or the emotion of doing it all for your mum?  

The first day was definitely the hardest. It was brutal. It was our longest day (from Melbourne to Ballarat) and the roads and hill climbs definitely presented a larger challenge what we had ever had before. Dealing with the emotion of losing someone close to you comes up constantly when you are faced with a challenge, so I think I have become quite good at dealing with it(passing of his mum). Knowing we were doing it for mum was a huge driving factor for all the boys, not just myself and Charlie.

TD: Favourite 20 seconds of the trip?

I think arriving in Keith, Just seeing all the support from the people who are closest to us was something pretty special and something that I'll never forget.

TD: Crossing the finish line must have been an emotional moment, what was going through your head as you stepped off the bike for the final time in Adelaide?

To be honest, when we got there I was kind of just hoping that the people who were helping us prepare the final event had got everything sorted haha. Once we were able to settle down and relax it was all about making sure that we had thanked those who had helped us and made it clear to them how much it meant to us. There was also a real sense of satisfaction, knowing that we had completed what we set out to complete and that we had done it for someone very special.

TD: With a group of 5 it would be very tough to organise a second trip, but do you find yourself thinking about doing it all again?

We are constantly thinking about doing it again. Like you said though, as there are 5 of us it does make it a little difficult. If we were to do it again we would want to go bigger that's for sure, but I think we would have to make sure that the 5 of us are all involved. 

TD: What's the biggest lesson the RFR experience has taught you? 

It has taught me that if you put you’re mind to something and prepare yourself well enough then you are every chance to achieve it. 

TD: What suggestions would you have for someone who wanted to do a large cycling trip or a big fundraiser?

It is vital to have good people involved who know what they are doing. We were lucky that we knew some people who had some sort of experience, but if you don’t know anyone then source them out. And don’t limit yourself, back in what you want to do, be sure about it and do everything you can to prepare yourself.

TD: Any final thoughts you'd like to leave us with? 

I just want to thank everyone that helped us. We haven’t, and will never, forget what you did for us during that incredible week and the months leading up. I hope that we have done some good and I hope that in the not to distant future I will have some news about us having another crack at it. We love you Mum.

Get in touch with the Ride for Rhonda Team:
Facebook - @ride4rhonda
Instagram - @ride4rhonda

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