DAERA charity cycle remembers road accident victims

Ian Crowe, Air Ambulance NI, pictured with DAERA staff and the McCarragher family
Ian Crowe, Air Ambulance NI, pictured with DAERA staff and the McCarragher family

Department of Agriculture, Enviroment and Rural Affairs staff will be getting on their bikes this weekend in memory of two women killed in road accidents in the past 18 months.

Members of the DAERA Loughry Campus workforce will be joined by family and friends as they take to the roads to raise money for the Air Ambulance NI in memory of Lesley-Ann McCarragher and Bernie McNicholl.

Both women died as a result of road accidents and both had strong links to the Loughry Campus. Lesley-Ann, who died on April 9 this year, was a first year student studying a BSc Honours Degree in Food Technology. Bernie worked in Countryside Management Unit in DAERA and was based on the Loughry Campus. She died on April 12, 2015.

Diane Patterson, who is part of the team organising this year’s event, said: “This is the second year of our Campus 2 Campus cycle and we wanted to build on the success of last year’s cycle which saw us raise £3,500 for the Chest, Heart and Stroke charity in memory of our colleage Nigel Clarke.

“The Campus 2 Campus cycle was initially planned to showcase our impressive campus sites, build morale amongst the staff and provide much needed funds for local charities.

“We got into cycling through a cycle to work scheme which was run throughout Civil Service departments and with encouragement from Oliver McWilliams, who’s a keen cyclist, some of us took part in a few cycling events.”

Bernie McNicholl and Lesley-Ann McCarragher

Bernie McNicholl and Lesley-Ann McCarragher

From there the group decided it would be a great way to raise money for local charities.

With two tragic aroad deaths so closely linked to staff and students at the Loughry Campus the decision to hold this year’s event in the memory of Leslie-Ann and Bernie was a straightforward one.

Diane continued: “Bernie worked on the Loughry Campus and was really well thought of by everyone who knew her. Leslie-Ann was a student and was killed at just 19. Her mum has been heavily involved in the planning of the event.

“We wanted to go bigger and better than last year and we are well on course. There were around 70 cyclists taking part in 2015, but we already have over 200 confirmed and are expecting upwards of another 100 to take part.

“We have had great support from local businesses and there are a host of great prizes up for grabs in the raffles. The staff are all playing their part either organising, marshalling, selling raffle tickets and of course taking part.

“We have had great help from the staff at Loughry, which is really appreciated,” she added.

Diane paid tribute to the two families for all their help and support in preparation for the event.

“Both families have been great - their strength and determination really has been an inspiration,” said Diane. “We are delighted that members of both families will be taking part on Sunday.”

There is still time for anyone interested in taking part in the Campus 2 Campus cycle to register.

There are two options available. The first is from Loughry Campus to Moy and back covering a distance of 30 miles. The second is from Loughry to Armagh and back which is 55 miles.

Diane is keen to point out that the cycle is open to all and is strictly non-competitive.

She continued: “This is not a race, it’s not competitive, it’s about taking part and raising funds for Air Ambulance NI.

“This is a fun and family day, a bit of craic and nothing too serious. We want everyone to take part and enjoy themselves.”

The event at 10am is expected to be supported by agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen and chief inspector for Mid-Ulster Roy Robinson.

For more information see www.daeracharitycycle.co.uk or log on to their Facebook page.