As he gets set to take on his biggest challenge to date, we caught up with our intrepid supporter Kenny Smith to find out more about the inspiration behind his fundraising.
There’s going the extra mile for a cause you’re passionate about and then there’s going the extra 2,655 miles! That’s exactly what our supporter Kenny Smith will be doing on June 12 as he sets off on a 50-day cycle ride around the UK in support of the MS Trust.
It’s a challenge of epic proportions. Kenny will be riding solo, unsupported and carrying everything he needs for the 50-day ride. He’ll start and finish in his home town of Chichester and on the way cycle through the likes of Land’s End, Liverpool, John O’Groats, Sunderland, and Letchworth, home of the MS Trust.It really is, Kenny says, “the big one.”
“I’m living and breathing this ride every minute of every day,” he says. “It has taken over if I’m honest. I’m lucky my wife Sandra is so supportive as I have a bike set up in the lounge on the turbo trainer, dumbbells and weights set up in the dining room, and paperwork, books, maps and equipment scattered on every worktop and shelf."
Training and preparing for such an incredible feat, as you may imagine, is intense and exhausting. Kenny is on his bike three nights a week and at weekends, and when he’s not out cycling he’s at the gym. He’s on a strict diet, and his evenings are usually spent researching the areas he’s riding through, finding accommodation, organising fundraising events and sending out “email after email”.
But what keeps him going through it all, and what will no doubt keep his legs turning during the toughest moments of the ride too, is his sister Kathleen. “My inspiration for all my challenges has always been my sister Kathleen, who lived with MS for all of her adult life,” Kenny explains. “She was a wonderful person who had a beautiful character and never had a bad bone in her body.
Kathleen really was a fighter and she battled MS but never let it get her down. Her attitude was to get on the best she could, and I always admired her for that
Sadly Kathleen passed away in the autumn of 2014. Kenny and his family were heartbroken, but he vowed to keep her name alive through fundraising. Over the years Kenny has taken on all manner of incredible feats for the charity. From running marathons (he’s run the London Marathon 10 times!) to climbing Everest and Kilimanjaro; jumping out of planes to holding collections, cake stalls and boot sales. You name it, Kenny’s done it.
“I’ve trekked, run, climbed, cycled, walked and skydived for the MS Trust, just about everywhere.”
But what makes this challenge particularly poignant is that 31 July, 2019, the date Kenny is due to finish the ride, would have been Kathleen’s 50th birthday. What does he think Kathleen would have made of it? “I think she would just simply say that I’m completely mad,” he laughs.
Kenny started supporting the MS Trust back in 2005. He had a ballot place for the London Marathon and decided to raise funds for the MS Trust. It was the beginning of a “fantastic friendship,” he says.
“The MS Trust is a fantastic charity that really goes above and beyond to help those living with and those affected by MS. It’s a relatively small UK charity doing a massive job, and I’ve witnessed first-hand the difference they make for not only those living with MS, but also the help, advice and support they give to families too.”
What would Kenny say to anybody reading his story and feeling inspired to take on their own challenge for the MS Trust? “I always say the hardest part of taking on any challenge is the signing up to do it. Check out the MS Trust website for how you can take part in an event and sign up,” says Kenny. “The team at the MS Trust are fantastic and help you to reach your goal and can give you amazing advice for your training and fundraising.
“It doesn’t matter what you want to do. It can be trekking for days or it can be sitting in a bath of baked beans, or it can be simply putting a few quid into a collection tin, the point is you're doing something to make a difference for those living with MS and that really is all that matters.”