Transplant families team up for ride

Cycle of Giving founder Mary Long set to ride for organ transplant research


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STRONG BOND: Cycle of Giving founder Mary Long with Jeremy Harmon, whose father donated his heart to Mary's husband Mal.

STRONG BOND: Cycle of Giving founder Mary Long with Jeremy Harmon, whose father donated his heart to Mary's husband Mal.

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Ride of their lives: Transplant recipients get ready for fundraising cycle

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THIS MARCH, Buderim grandmother Mary Long will be pulling on the lycra and cycling 100km to raise funds for organ transplant research.

It will be the 13th time the 70-year-old Queenslander has taken part in the Cycle of Giving fundraising ride – which she started with her husband Mal in 2006. 

But this year the event on March 10 will hold special significance. Riding alongside Mary will be Jeremy Harmon, whose father saved her late husband’s life in 2004, donating his heart to Mal and giving him a second chance at life.

“After transplant, Mal and I put our thinking caps on as to what we could do to make a contribution and to say thank you for this precious gift we received,” said Mary, also known as The Queen of Hearts.

“I’m a swimmer really but we ended up coming up with the idea of a bike ride from Landsborough on the Sunshine Coast to the Prince Charles Hospital in Chermside, north of Brisbane, where Mal had his heart transplant.

ON TRACK: Mary Long at last year's ride.

ON TRACK: Mary Long at last year's ride.

“I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a kid. Back then we had pedals as brakes and didn’t have gears! But at least I was fit.”

Mary and Mal started the Cycle of Giving two years later in 2006. “There was a small group of us – mainly swimming friends – and some transplant recipients, and we started out in the hills and through the Glasshouse Mountains.

“But when we arrived at the hospital it was an amazing welcome from doctors and transplant specialists and nurses. It was such a good feeling.”

Sadly, that wasn’t the end of the struggle for Mal, and he passed away from cancer in 2007. 

Mary ran the bike ride for 10 years, but has since handed over the reins to the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation. Despite stepping down, she participates and fundraises every year.

The route has since changed, starting and finishing in Bunya, north-west of Brisbane, but Mary said the ride is still as vital in raising awareness of organ and tissue donation and funds for research. “It will always be a very important event,” she said.

When the going gets tough, when we hit the hills, the thought kicks in of how difficult that time must have been in 2004 for our donor family. - Mary Long, Cycle of Giving founder

Last year was the first time Mary got to meet Jeremy and ride with him. 

“When the going gets tough, when we hit the hills, the thought kicks in of how difficult and challenging that time must have been in 2004 for our donor family who decided to give us a chance of improving our life,” she said.

“It was lovely meeting Jeremy. I feel so privileged to have met him and to have communicated with his family.”

Last year, Jeremy was presented with “Mal’s Trophy”, which was made by Mary’s brother-in-law.

“That moment was so special and we had some tears,” Mary said.

Transplant riders and their families will also take part in the event.

GET ON YOUR BIKE

There’s still time to register for the Cycle of Giving on March 10. The event hopes to raise more than $250,000 to fund research supported by the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation.

There are about 1400 people on the organ transplant waiting list in Australia. 

Participants can choose from four different length rides. The 100km ride starts at 6am, 60km at 7am, 20km and 10km rides at 8am.

All rides start and finish at James Drysdale Recreation Reserve, Bunya, 18km north of the Brisbane CBD.

If riding’s not your thing you can volunteer on cheer stations, the hydration tent or route marshalling.

Read more: Organ donation: just talk about it says drag queen Di Alysis

Read more: Lung Foundation launches campaign to end stigma around disease

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