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Blood Bikes – biking in memory of a brother
Colette Falloon’s brother Marcel had always helped others.
Ex-RAF and British Aerospace and a passionate biker, Marcel started by donating blood, then platelets and from there heard about the Blood Bikes charity, a volunteer organisation delivering blood, organs and medical supplies to hospitals by motorcycle.
Marcel took to the Blood Bikes concept immediately and spent three years as a volunteer, making run after run on his Aprilia Caponord delivering critical supplies to hospitals in the north west and doubtless saving countless lives in the process.
Then one terrible morning, in June this last year, Marcel simply didn’t wake up.
“Marcel’s death was completely unexpected, and a terrible shock,” recalls Colette. “He was just 57 and had regular health checks but just never woke up one morning, just before Mum’s birthday.”
The loss was made all the more poignant because Marcel and Colette shared between them the care of their mother, who has dementia.
At the funeral, 50 Blood Bikes from the north west turned up in convoy to lead Marcel’s coffin, and this made Colette realise the importance of the service her brother had taken on. “I’d never paid too much attention to what Marcel was doing until that point,” Colette recalls. “I thought he was being paid for what he did, not that it was voluntary, unpaid and so vital for the community.” That realisation made Colette determined to honour her brother’s memory by picking up on what he had left behind.
“I wanted to give something back so I went to see the Blood Bikes organisation to see how I could help,” says Colette. “Blood Bikes was so close to my brother’s heart that I wanted to continue it for him. Paul Brooks, the Chairman of Blood Bikes, was there, and I told him that although I couldn’t give the full commitment to becoming a Blood Biker right then and there due to my mother’s illness, it would just be a matter of time – and in the meantime I would help by fundraising”.
Colette’s friend Jayne Andrews suggested running the Wigan 10km race and although Colette was still in shock from the death of her brother, had never run a race and had only two months to train, she completed the challenge and raised over £700 – with more money still coming in. “I could not have done it without the support from my close friend Jayne,” says Colette.
Next step on her path was for Colette to buy a bike, so a Transalp 700 was sourced and the journey to becoming a Blood Biker was underway.
“I’d always loved bikes and I passed my test at 17; but then, like so many other people, life got in the way and motorcycling dropped off the radar for a while,” recalls Colette. “So riding the Transalp home from purchasing it in Macclesfield was the first challenge – I hadn’t ridden a bike for 15 years. Of course, now I am loving it – and on one of my first rides I got chatting with Mick Gibbons and Peter Laidlaw, North West Chair of BMF while having a brew. I told them my plans, they really encouraged me to do it, took me under their wing and helped sort out my path to an advanced rider training.”
Colette’s goal is now to complete the IAM Advanced Riding course and become a Blood Biker, like her brother Marcel. In the meantime the fundraising continues.
“If anything good has come of this, it has set me on the path to helping others,” says Colette. “Life is short and it is for living – so until I can become a Blood Biker I will be supporting Blood Bikes at shows and events, doing talks wherever I can to help raise funds, and raising awareness of the fantastic work the Blood Bikes charity does. Marcel gave me my love of motorcycles, taught me to ride, taught me the importance of helping others and now I feel he is with me when I ride – and I know he will be riding with me when I become a Blood Biker too. The blood bikers need as many people as possible to volunteer and show support; it is not just riding, you can be a controller and work from home. If you can spare the time, please do,” is Colette’s plea.
And there is one more memory of her brother that lives on – a liveried Blood Bike named Marcel, complete with ‘blues & twos’ – delivering life-saving consignments to the hospitals of the north west.
Blood Bikes has a JustGiving page to help with funding. Visit justgiving.com/bloodbike.
What is the Blood Bikes organisation?
The Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes is the umbrella organisation for a national charity with 27 member groups and over 1,700 volunteers across the UK, providing a sustainable transport infrastructure nationwide delivering blood and essential deliveries to NHS hospitals. Riders, fundraisers, call handlers and general administration volunteers all help the organisation to operate – supporting the hard-pressed NHS and saving lives.
Riders can use their own bikes or – on suitable training – operate liveried Blood Bikes using ‘blues & twos’ as used by emergency services. North West Blood Bikes – the group Marcel rode for – started in 2011 and now has 350 members, averages 900 call outs per month and approaching 28,000 call outs in total.
The group covers 3,000 square miles and helps five Hospital Trusts, including 13 hospitals, numerous cottage hospitals and doctors surgeries. In June 2016 North West Blood Bikes were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the charity group MBE.