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The Dillons’ Story: Crossing the Continental Divide for Carol

The Dillon family is gearing up to face the challenge of a lifetime in memory of Carol

A local family is determined to channel their loss into something positive and, this summer, they will embark on the adventure of a lifetime to do so.

Barry Dillon and his twin sons, Ricky and Gavin, are taking on the longest off-road cycle route in the world to raise funds for Hospiscare, after we cared for their beloved wife and mother, Carol.

On 1 July, Barry, Ricky and Gavin will set off from Banff in the Canadian Rocky Mountains to take on The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. With a trail of almost 2,700 miles ahead of them, their journey of almost 90% off-road riding will take them to altitudes of over 3,600m in order to reach their final destination of Antelope Wells on the US/Mexican border.

The family has one clear motivation for taking on this incredible challenge – to raise as much money as possible for their local hospice charity in memory of Carol.

Carol and her husband, Barry

After Carol was diagnosed with cancer, Barry cared for his wife at home. As Carol was living with bi-polar disorder, Barry was her main support system and he explains, “Carol relied heavily on me, that’s how our relationship was. Without me there, she found it difficult.

“When COVID came along, Carol said that she wanted to die at home. I was prepared to look after her but as it got nearer the end, it became very difficult because of her medication and her pain. I felt like I was fighting constantly to get her what she needed.

“Hospiscare was called out and they just changed everything. They got Carol the painkillers that I was fighting to get her. They had that power to get Carol what she needed, and I didn’t have to fight anymore. In the end, Carol needed to go into the hospice because I wasn’t able to care for her at home safely.”

A close-up of a wife and husband

Carol and Barry

Ricky adds, “Even with all of the COVID restrictions at the time, the nurses went above and beyond to make sure we were all comfortable and could have privacy. We were able to see our Mum at that crucial time.”

Barry continues, “Without Hospiscare, Carol would have suffered a lot of pain. As soon as Hospiscare came on board, it changed everything.

“There is one nurse, Ann, that I have to mention, because she was an angel. At the end of one of our visits, Ann came up to us and said, ‘Don’t go yet – I have a plan.’ Ann knew that Carol didn’t have long left, so she put us in the garden room which meant that we were that at the crucial moment when Carol did go.

“Without Ann doing that, without Hospiscare doing what they did, I know it would have been a very different ending. When Carol died, she went the way I wanted her to go, peacefully, with us there.”

A selfie or a husband and wife

Barry with his wife, Carol

Gavin, explains, “It leaves a big hole when you lose someone close to you. We wanted to have something to focus on, something for Dad to focus on, and fundraising for Hospiscare seemed like the obvious thing to do.

“One of dad’s favourite sayings is ‘step outside of your comfort zone’ and that’s exactly what we’re doing in memory of Mum.”

Gavin’s twin, Ricky, continues, “Dad’s always planted the seed of adventure and we wanted to be able to give something back to him, too.”

A man hugging his mum

Ricky with his mum, Carol

The Dillons are all keen adventurers, led by Barry’s spirit to explore the world. Before Carol was diagnosed with cancer, the family did a road trip through Norway in their two vans and for the couple’s Ruby Wedding anniversary, Barry had even bigger plans: “I said to Carol, let’s do something really good. How about we travel through Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland? Carol said, ‘Why do you have to do something so big?’, so I thought, oh well, it’s not going to happen. Then a couple of weeks later, she agreed to do it! We went away for six weeks and did 6,000 miles in our little camper van and she loved it!”

The Great Divide challenge has been a dream of Barry’s for some time, but as Carol suffered from bi-polar disorder, Barry’s role as her main support system prevented him from turning this dream into a reality, until now. Ricky explains, “For the bike ride itself, we toyed with the idea of a smaller ride through the Camino de Santiago, but we’d already spoken about the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. We knew that we were just being a bit fearful, so we had to go back to doing the epic GDMBR.”

Whilst they enjoy cycling as a casual hobby, Barry and his sons are the first ones to admit that their cycling experience isn’t extensive, with Barry joking, “I cry every time I climb the hills!” and Gavin adding that his training experience to date involves “riding my bike to and from work, which is about five minutes!”

Three men on mountain bikes wearing helmets

Gavin, Barry and Ricky in training for The Great Divide

With the demanding and unfamiliar terrain ahead of them, the Dillons expect the epic route will take them approximately three and a half months to complete. The trio plan to wild camp along the majority of the route and dad Barry will celebrate his 70th birthday on the trail!

Aside from the obvious challenges posed by the difficult terrain and keeping safe from wild animals, Ricky confessed his major worry: “I’m very concerned about the snoring. My brother and my dad are both very heavy snorers. I try to ignore it, but I get this little bit of anger while I’m trying to sleep! I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Barry, Ricky and Gavin are self-funding the challenge, from the cost of their mountain bikes to their flights and supplies, so that every penny they receive will go directly to Hospiscare. Their commitment to this once in a lifetime opportunity has led Ricky and Gavin to give up their jobs and the leases on their flats to take on this adventure with their father.

Barry says, “It’s a big adventure and I’m hoping that we can raise as much money as we can for Hospiscare. Even though it’s an adventure, and hopefully we’ll enjoy it, it is in memory of Carol. I know that she’d be happy for me to do it, because she knows what I’m like. I’ve never experienced Hospiscare before and what they did was simply amazing.”

A woman lying in a porthole making a face at the camera

Carol on one of the family’s many adventures

With just 18% of our costs funded by the NHS, we rely upon incredible supporters like the Dillons to raise the vital funds needed to ensure our specialist services are provided at no cost to those in need.

The Dillons are aiming to raise an incredible £20,000 for Hospiscare with their pedal power, which could fund 340 visits from the hospice’s specialist nurses.

Barry concludes, “Hospiscare deserves our help because without donations, there would be no Hospiscare. It’s not just about us doing this challenge, it’s about the people who donate and make a difference to the hospice.”

To make a donation to Barry, Ricky and Gavin’s challenge to support the vital work of our hospice, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ricky-dillon.

Follow the Dillons’ progress and stay up-to-date with their incredible journey via Hospiscare’s Facebook and Instagram.