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County Antrim couple continue on epic cycle challenge in 2021 to raise funds for Sands NI

David and Claire with daughters Naomi (left) and Emily (right)

Doagh couple David and Claire Charles are continuing on a mission in 2021 to raise much needed funds for charity ‘Sands NI’, in memory of their baby daughter Rachel.

David originally planned to complete a series of 10 epic cycle challenges in 2020, to raise money for the charity and also honour and celebrate their baby daughter Rachel, who sadly died in 2010 and would have been 10 years old in September last year.

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that wasn’t possible, though David managed to complete two challenges lapping Lough Neagh in August, and a third challenge lap of County Antrim in October. Friends Lesley and Ian Irvine joined the most recent cycle to support the family and their fundraising efforts.

“My mission now is to complete eight more cycles in 2021 and we will release details closer to each challenge,” David said.

Sands NI is a volunteer-led group that supports anyone affected by the death of a baby, by working to improve the care bereaved parents receive, through promoting research and working closely with many different organisations to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.

David and Claire first encountered Sands NI when they lost their little baby girl on 11 September 2010. They experienced the devastating sense of loss that many couples in our community will have experienced when things do not go as planned.

David said: “My wife Claire was 32 weeks pregnant and everything seemed to be going fine. Then very suddenly, it wasn't. A midwife measured Claire's bump too big at a routine appointment on the Monday and the referral to the Consultant on Wednesday resulted in admission to the Royal Maternity Hospital on the Thursday.

“At this point Rachel was diagnosed with a condition called Fetal Hydrops. Things then moved very fast, with Claire going into labour early on the Saturday morning.”

David recounted his memory of that day: “My memory of Rachel being born is silence - complete silence. No crying, no baby noises, no gurgling noises; just complete silence. The Doctors and nurses worked so hard to do what they could but in that complete silence I knew that it was going to be vain. Rachel was with us for a couple of hours before she died in her mummy's arms surrounded by her family. Without doubt, this is the most difficult thing that we have had to experience. People say that no parent should have to bury their child and I can agree with this completely.

“The staff at the hospital were brilliant; providing such professional, high quality, compassionate care. Sands NI also provided us with fantastic support during this time. We received a memory box on the day Rachel died, which included a little blanket, a teddy bear and a camera for us to take photos with us.”

David and Claire both feel very passionate about the charity after receiving such positive support during what was such a very difficult time. The couple continued to find comfort and strength when they began attending the organisation’s Antrim support group a few weeks after Claire was discharged from hospital. The group, which meets every first Thursday evening of every month, provided them both with an opportunity to share, to listen, to cry, and to just sit there with other parents who had shared similar experiences.

“We want to give something back by helping to raise as much money as we can for them. We started in 2020 during Rachel's 10th birthday year and look forward to completing it in this new year.

“So if you are looking for a New Year’s resolution, or a new target or objective for 2021 - why not think about joining Team Cycle For Rachel in 2021? You can contact me on Facebook Messenger and I can give you some details on the plans for this year.

“I cycle really slowly, but you can do as many or few cycles as you like, or you can do your own cycle challenges if that works best for you. It doesn’t even have to be cycling if there is something else you would rather do. It’s ultimately all for a great charity!”

David concluded: “Rachel went from our lives 10 years ago but she remains very much with us each and every day. 10 years ago somebody sent me a text which said, "An Angel in the book of life wrote down our Rachel's birth, then whispered, as she closed the book, "too beautiful for this earth.” That makes me smile now.”

David and Claire would very much appreciate if you were able to show your support for Cycle for Rachel and Sands NI by donating at the link below.


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