Family and friends of a man killed by a hit-and-run driver during a holiday in Dubai have completed a gruelling 137-mile cycle ride to raise thousands of pounds for a charity set up in his memory.
A total of 40 riders pedalled from Chester to Newport in aid of the Repatriation Service Trust (REST), which was launched by the parents of Tom Bassett, 30, who tragically died in the Middle Eastern City last year.
At a time when they were trying to come to terms with the loss of their son, Steve and Linda Bassett had to pay nearly £7,000 to bring him back home after facing problems from their travel insurance as well as bureaucracy issues in the UAE.
The couple did not want to see another family suffer the same harrowing ordeal they did so decided to set up REST to provide support to those who lose a loved one abroad.
The three-day cycle ride over the bank holiday weekend, which coincided with the one year anniversary of Tom’s death, has raised an estimated £25,000.
Tom worked as an executive for Chester-based Bank of America, living in Flint during the week before returning home to Newport at the weekends.
North Wales storage firm Lock Stock provided two of their Take Stock hire vans from their Saltney storage base for the charity challenge which featured family and friends from South Wales as well as work colleagues based in Chester and Liverpool.
Among them was close friend and work colleague Ben Davies, who said: “It was record-breaking temperatures over the weekend and I think Tom made it shine for us! It was a real success.
“It was an emotional weekend as we marked a year since we lost him and everyone was feeling it.
“But it was an amazing experience and we made sure we all finished together.
“A couple of miles before the end we had a water stop so we could all ride the last bit together with Tom’s dad and family in front.
“There were about 200 people at the finish which was amazing and also very emotional. Tom would have been so proud. We were all together like he would have wanted.”
The 28-year-old added: “The two vans we had from Lock Stock were brilliant. They did us a really good deal and I can’t thank them enough.
“It was a great weekend for the charity because we were riding through villages in Wales and people were cheering and shouting good luck.
“People could see what we were wearing to promote the charity and went online to leave some money and post messages saying what a great cause it was. Hopefully it’s given the charity lots of exposure.”
Take Stock van hire manager Jeff Woods said: “We were delighted to help out such a worthy cause and it was great being there to watch the riders set out.
“The vans are ideal for that kind of support work and we have had them used by the Wales Rally GB and other events in the past as they’re ideal support vehicles and able to carry food and water for the riders and spare tyres and repair equipment to keep them on the road.”
Tom’s Dad Steve, 56, said: “I think we’ve all found a new hobby! Most of these boys weren’t cyclists before but they’ve all embraced it.
“Everything we throw at these guys they’re up for it because they loved Thomas so much.
“He was adored and loved by everybody. He was super fit and would have done this bike ride easy.”
Ben, who is originally from Newport, first met Tom when they were work colleagues in the city, but the pair became really close friends when Ben began working as a contractor for the Bank of America in Chester four years ago.
He said: “Tom was working down here as a contractor too and because we already knew each other we quickly became best friends.
“He was a really nice guy, very likeable. We all followed Tom, he could always gather a crowd.”
Despite having not ridden a bicycle for several years, Ben said he didn’t hesitate in taking part in the cycling challenge.
He explained: “When Tom’s mum and dad were setting up the charity everyone who loved Tom were desperate to help.
“One of the first ideas was to do a big cycle ride. There were no questions asked, we all wanted to do it.
“It’s creating a legacy for him through the charity. A lot of us have gone and got bikes for the first time in years. It’s been like learning to ride again!
“If you’d said to me do you want to do a 137-mile bike ride I’d have said no chance. But doing it for Tom makes it all worthwhile.
“We all want to do things for the charity, not just because it’s an amazing cause, but because it brings us all together and it keeps us busy.”
Tom’s dad Steve said the experience they went through spurred him on to launch the charity so no other family has to endure a similar ordeal.
He said: “You can imagine what it’s like being stuck in a foreign country and having to come up with that sum of money.
“Fortunately we could do it but not everyone would be able to. With the charity we don’t just want to provide financial support we want to offer emotional support.
“Put families in touch with the right people and help them every step of the way.
“Thomas was such a legend to everyone and this is his legacy.”
For more information about the charity, which is on the verge of Charity Commission status, visit www.repatriationtrust.org.