Co Down man Jim Copeland used an exercise bike to undertake the virtual cycle through all the towns where he had living during his life, including Waringstown, Bangor, Dungannon, Killyman and finishing in the town of his birth – Aughnacloy.
Jim, who had worked on the buses and as a baker, served in the Home Guard during the Second World War. He started his challenge in August cycling two to three kilometres a day and recently completed the challenge to raise funds for a charity set up in memory of his late granddaughter Charlene Barr, who died in October 2010 at the age of 20.
Charlene, who had cystic fibrosis was in hospital waiting on a life-saving double lung transplant when she set up Charlene’s Project in 2008. She had visited Uganda with her family the year before and was so moved by the poverty that she launched a fund in the last months of her life to build a primary school there. She managed to raise £120,000 but sadly never got to see the school she built.
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Her family — dad Dickie Barr, a GP, mum Janice and siblings David, Rebecca, Natalie, Bethany and Serena — carried on her vision and now want to build a secondary school so that the children Charlene helped can continue their education.
And after Covid hit fundraising, Jim, who recently moved to Lurgan to live with Charlene’s parents, decided to step in to help.
Dickie Barr said: “Just out of the blue he (Jim) said he would do a fundraiser. At the start when he was getting on to the exercise bike in the garage we had to make sure we were with him because he could have fallen off it very easily. But over the time he did the challenge, mentally and physically, it did him the world of good.”
Jim described his granddaughter as “an inspiration”.
“Lying in that hospital bed needing two lungs to save her life she thought there were people worse off than she was which is why she started her fund. The more we can get to realise her dream, well, it’s something to work for.”
Jim completed his cycle on October 30, the 11th anniversary of Charlene’s death and so far has raised £7,000 with all donations going towards the new secondary school in Uganda.
DUP MP Carla Lockhart, who met Jim in Aughnacloy, said: “Jim is very much our own ‘Captain Tom’ after this amazing effort!”
*Donations can still be made at https://www.gofundme.com/f/jim-copeland