Cyclist Denis, 80, joins the party

SWINDON Probus Club celebrated its 40th anniversary yesterday with a visit from veteran cyclist Denis Hedges.

Denis, 80, took on a cycle challenge from Land’s End to John O’Groats in September, cycling an average of 80 miles a day for 12 days to raise money for the Make A Wish foundation, who put on the trip of a lifetime for his grandson.

Speaking to the group, Denis admitted: “I am a bit of a cyclist. When I was just a boy, I would cycle 200 miles to see a girl, and when I got there she was out.

“I wanted to make my latest ride a bit special, so I waited until I turned 80.

“My grandson was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, and he spent two years going back and forward to Oxford for treatment. People from the Make a Wish foundation came to him and asked what he would like to do as a treat. They paid for the whole family to go to Florida and swim with dolphins, so I wanted to give something back.”

Denis smashed his target of £1,000, eventually raising almost £4,500 for the charity.

“People were stopping us on the road and giving us donations,” he said. “We did not go around with a begging bowl, but we made far more than we set out to.”

Barry De La Haye, 80, is enjoying his first week as president of the club.

“I am very honoured to asked to take on this role,” he said. “It is a wonderful club, and we have a great variety of speakers.”

Mike Tanner, 79, the club’s secretary, said he was impressed by Denis’ achievements. “I think Denis is fantastic to do what he has at 80,” he said. “It just shows that age is only a number. We have another member who celebrated his 80th birthday by climbing a mountain.

“The concept of Probus is an extension of the Rotarians, to look out for retired men. When they leave the Rotary club the idea was to start a club just for them.

“Some clubs are mixed gender. We are not because we prefer it that way, and I think our wives prefer it. We get dressed up and get out of the house for a couple of hours.

“If you reach the age of 90 you get honorary life membership. In January we had our oldest member recognised, who had his 100th birthday the very next day.

“We have such diverse speakers that if you do not learn something you are not listening.”

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