Former Formula 1 champion Damon Hill set off alongside 84 charity cyclists in a 48-hour, 250-mile trip to France and back in aid of a cause very close to his heart.
The halow250 challenge, now in its third year, hopes to raise £75,000 for the halow project, a charity supporting people aged 18- 35 with learning disabilities.
They started their journey outside The Boathouse pub in Putney
Patron Damon Hill, whose son Oliver has down-syndrome, founded the charity in 2006 with his wife Georgia and friends, all of whom had children with a learning disability.
He said it would be amazing if they could raise more than the £60,000 they raised last year.
"It’s terrific that people have come out and supported something that is a lot of fun, and is a good way of promoting Halow.
"The money is going to go to a really really worthwhile valuable project and people will benefit and it is such a benefit to society," he said.
Wandsworth-based Young’s Brewery is the headline sponsor for the event, with fifteen of their staff taking part and raising £25,000.
Young’s director Torquil Sligo-Young, who is taking part, said: "We like the idea of supporting small charities where we can make a big difference."
Hill, 53, joked about whether he would be able to cope with the first two days of the ride,
He said: "Getting back from Portsmouth I should just about manage that," he said.
"I quite like it, I’m one of those. Once you get your head down and you start peddling it’s amazing how far you can go."
The halow project provides support for 170 adults in Surrey to live as independently as possible by offering a one-to-one buddy service, career advice and support and community-based social activities.
Director, Yvonne Hignell, said twenty years ago the people they work with would have been put into institutions resonating Georgia Hill’s words on the couple’s experience when their son was born.
Mrs Hill spoke to the Daily Mail in 2006 about how health professionals had tried to encourage them to put their first son into care.
Ms Hignell said: "These guys that would have been in institutions they’re sitting on the sofa in our offices texting their boyfriend or girlfriend. They want jobs, they want to be part of society and they have so much to give."
"They are out there, they’re challenging everything, they’re having their own homes, they’re having relationships."
"Our charity challenges every social barrier, every kind of insidious belief that these people can’t add value to society," she said.
To donate to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DamonHill.
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