Leicestershire and Rutland Freemason Paul Simpson is getting ready for the biggest challenge of his life when he cycles 300 miles for charity, as part of the celebrations of 300 years of English Freemasonry.
Paul, aged 51, is one of 20 Freemasons cycling to each of the 11 Masonic meeting places within Leicestershire and Rutland, followed by a hard slog to the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England at Freemasons' Hall.
When clocking up the 300 miles, they will take a short detour to the site of the former Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul's Churchyard, London, where the first Grand Lodge was formed in June 1717 before they head back to Leicester.
Paul said: 'Little did I realise that when I purchased a bike for my 50th birthday in October 2015, in less than two years I would be attempting a 300 mile charity ride over four days.
'On my first ride I managed just six miles. I returned home out of breath and extremely hot and red faced due no doubt to the excess weight that I was carrying but my appetite for cycling was whetted.'
By July 2016, Paul had completed his first charity cycle ride, 40 miles for Archie’s Army, a charity set up to support a young boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In April 2017, he completed the Rutland Sportive which covered 85 miles over the notorious Rutland hills.
After extensive training, and losing over two and half stone in weight, he is now ready to face the challenge of 300 miles in four consecutive days from Thursday 8th June 2017, which aims to raise £20,000 for the Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People in Loughborough and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation supports Freemasons and their families as well as providing more than five million pounds in grants to good causes across England and Wales.
David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, said: 'We’re very grateful to Paul and his friends for making this magnificent effort in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. We wish them all the very best of luck on their journey and look forward to welcoming them to Freemasons Hall on 9th June.'
The Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, based in Loughborough, provides care to those that are affected by life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.
Helen Lee-Smith, Head of Individual Giving at Rainbows, said: 'On behalf of everyone at Rainbows, I would like to thank Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for supporting Rainbows with their 300 mile cycle ride to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry.
'Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are doing a wonderful thing raising funds to help us run the hospice - fundraising efforts make such a huge difference to both the children and young people at Rainbows and their families. We would like to wish them all the best for their challenge.'
You can donate to the team here.
RW Bro David Hagger, Provincial Grand Masterfor Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, visited the headquarters of Lifelites on Wednesday 15th December 2016 for a demonstration of some of the equipment that is provided by the charity to children’s hospices
Lifelites began as project within the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and became an independent charity in 2006. It provides specialist entertainment, educational and assistive technology packages to over 9,000 children and young people with life-limiting, life-threatening and disabling conditions in children's hospices including Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People based in Loughborough.
Caroline Powell, Lifelites Training Manager, drives the Lifelites' training strategy to ensure all of the donated equipment is utilised to its full potential by hospice staff was delighted to demonstrate some of the equipment including Eyegaze which makes a computer accessible for disabled young people. Through a sensor, Eyegaze allows them to track their eye movements enabling them to move the cursor around the screen. Children whose carers and families thought they were unable to communicate, can now do so with this magical technology – they can tell their carers what they would like to eat or drink and can even, for the first time, tell their parents that they love them.
Simone Enefer-Doy, Chief Executive of Lifelites said: 'We are hoping to provide Rainbows in Leicestershire with another new package of our latest technologies in 2018 and will be fundraising for that project in the New Year.'
An inaugural concert at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester in aid of the Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People was held on Friday 8th May 2015 to celebrate the refurbishment of the 19th century pipe organ
The origins of the organ can be traced back to the early years of the 19th century, when it started life as a small chamber instrument built by the famous London craftsman William Gray.
It was utilised by the local organ builders Taylor and Company as the basis of the instrument installed in the old Masonic Hall in Halford Street, Leicester in 1903. This was moved to the present Hall in 1910 and was extended by Taylors in the 1940s.
After many years of faithful service the old instrument fell into disrepair and silence until being rescued by a young member, Carl Heslop, who volunteered his services to restore the organ to its former glory.
The concert began with the Rainbows Choir, consisting of staff and volunteers from the Hospice who energetically sang a number of songs including a medley from the Sound of Music.
This was followed by Carl Heslop who played several pieces on the newly refurbished organ including Dance of the Three Old Maids, and a medley in tribute to the British cinema organist, Sidney Torch.
One of the highlights was most certainly Carl accompanying Buster Keaton’s 1920 short comedy film One Week in true cinematic style, including his own improvisational flourishes heightening the drama seen on the screen much to the delight of the audience.
David Hughes entertained the audience of 140 with several monologues including Playing the Harmonium, which was a letter sent from the Rev FP Harton to Penelope Betjeman sacking her as Baulking Church organist, and a modified version of The Father of the Bride, originally written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall for Roy Kinnear.
The Tudor Choir, a 16-strong mixed voice choir based in Leicestershire, also performed several songs from movies and shows including The Circle of Life from Disney’s The Lion King.
The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger, concluded the evening by presenting a cheque for £2,000 on behalf of the Freemasons and the Tudor Choir to the Chief Executive of Rainbows, Andy Campbell, and said: 'We are proud that the Rainbows Choir has helped us celebrate the rebuilding of this fine pipe organ and in return we are very pleased to make a major contribution to society by donating the proceeds of the event to Rainbows which provides a place where life-limited children and their families in the East Midlands can find care and support.'