Bedfordshire veteran cycles 300 miles for RAF charity

"Right now, there are personnel and veterans who will be facing adversity in one way or another"
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A Bedfordshire veteran cycled 300 miles over the course of a month to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Des Roberts, 66, of Colesden is a keen cyclist but lockdown restrictions meant he was unable to get out on his bike as much as usual, so he decided to set himself a fundraising challenge.

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Des, who served in the Royal Air Force for 15 years, said: “I chose to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund because right now, there are personnel and veterans who will be facing adversity in one way or another.

Des RobertsDes Roberts
Des Roberts

"I’m still in touch with several RAF buddies, and every now and then someone will say 'Have you heard about such-and-such?', followed by a tale of unmitigated sorrow and hardship. You then remember that person and the times you served together. What could I do to help? This challenge was my response.

“The hardest part was relearning how to ride on rollers. For the first few 'rides' I had to stop for a breather after a few minutes, but the more I rode the easier it became, eventually completing a 12-mile session without a break. Keeping motivated proved tough at times, but I knew if I didn't make the challenge, I would be letting myself and others down and that could never happen.”

The RAF Benevolent Fund provides financial, emotional, and practical assistance to serving and retired RAF personnel and their families. This includes grants to help with financial difficulty, free memberships for Headspace, Airplay youth clubs, and more.

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Charlotte Barmby, regional fundraiser at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “Des took the news of November’s nationwide lockdown in his stride by turning it into an opportunity to help others through his fundraising. His support will allow us to continue to be there for the whole of the RAF family for years to come.”

The RAF Benevolent Fund has launched a range of welfare initiatives to support personnel and their families through the Covid-19 pandemic. It introduced a 24-hour emotional support helpline, created an online mental wellbeing zone, and began offering Headspace memberships to RAF partners and spouses.

The fund has also offered a £2,500 grant to each RAF station to provide activity and wellbeing packs for RAF children and launched Airplay Connect, an online version of its youth support service.