Twenty years ago Andrew O’Shea was inspired by the courage of a 12-year-old girl with terminal cancer during a charity bike ride from Bathurst to Broken Hill.
This week Mr O’Shea has been drawing on that courage again to complete another charity bike ride this time from Shellharbour to Tilpa Pub 181km west of Cobar.
Mr O”Shea and a group of riders will be passing through country towns along the way raising the awareness and importance of country hospitals, while also paying tribute to that girl – Kelly Mahy – who sadly died just after her 18th birthday.
There will be an emotional stop at Cobar to greet Kelly’s parents, Bill and Faye, and to make a donation of up to $20,000 to Cobar Hospital where their daughter spent much of her young life.
‘’When we did this 20 years ago to raise money for Ronald McDonald House and Sydney Children’s Hospital, it made a massive impression in all our lives meeting families along the way with kids like Kelly all suffering cancer,’’ Mr O’Shea said.
‘’Kelly was living 110 kilometres west of Cobar, her parents were on 50,000 acres of farming land and were going through real hardship with five kids, all this with their little girl having terminal cancer.
‘’They made the weekly trip to Sydney Children’s Hospital to keep their little girl alive for as long as they could.’’
Mr O’Shea, originally from Condobolin, hopes his efforts will also teach his own four kids that everyone can make a difference.
‘’After moving to Sydney for work as a young man, I started donating my time to Ronald McDonald House and befriended a lot of families who’d come from the bush,’’ he said.
‘’That’s why I took part in the first ride and we saw firsthand how tough it can be for families when their loved ones are sick and need specialist treatment in the city.
‘’Often families are split apart for weeks, months even, when one parent needs to be with a child in hospital and the other has to stay on the land to keep the income coming in and care for the other kids.’’
Two decades on, Mr O’Shea admitted he’s not quite as fit, yet just as passionate about the cause.
“Even though I am 20 years on and 24 kilos heavier, I’d ride again and raise money for the country hospital of Cobar where Kelly spent most of her young life.”
Mr O’Shea, his riding group and their support group left Shelharbour in Thursday and will arrive this afternoon in Cowra around 3pm before leaving for their next stop in Forbes at 8am.
The goal of the trip is to buy a peice of equipment that could have a plaque placed on it with the simple words “In Memory of Kelly Mahy”.
For updates on the riders’ progress, or to donate, visit the Ocean to Outback Bike Ride Facebook page.