Pals raise more than £3500 for Loch Lomond Rescue boat in memory of Alexandria youngster

Joe King, Michael Hegarty Simon Fleming and Paul Haggerty took on the Great Glen Way for the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat.
-Credit: (Image: Lennox Herald)

Four pals have raised more than £3,500 for the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat with a gruelling cycling challenge in memory of a tragic Alexandria youngster.

Joseph King, Michael Hegarty, Simon Fleming and Paul Haggerty cycled the 79 mile Great Glen in memory of 12-year-old Ava Gray, who lost her life in the River Leven near Balloch in the summer of 2020.

The friends initially set a target of £500, but were blown away by the support they received — and said that Ava’s memory is what kept them pedalling through the pain barrier.

Joe told the Lennox: “Mick’s wee boy was with Ava the day she lost her life.

“It was through him that we knew about the situation.

“We’re quite keen cyclists and we wanted to do the Great Glen Way. Mick came up with the amazing idea of doing it for the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat and for wee Ava.

“It was a slog. But it was worth every second. For four lifelong friends it was an experience we’ll never forget.

“Ava’s memory is what kept us going. It’s what made us keep going through the pain. When we looked down at the t-shirts with Ava on them we knew we had to keep going.

“It was a challenge. Friendships were definitely tested along the way, but we made it in the end.

“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Behind, maybe, Ben Nevis.

“After the first day I was struggling. If someone had offered me a lift in a helicopter I would’ve taken it. I was really struggling!

“The other three scooshed it. But on the second day I woke up like a mountain goat and scooshed it, but Mick had to do the last 30 miles or so with a bad knee. At points we didn’t think he would make it.

“He had to dig very deep to get through that.”

Ava Gray, 12, from Old Bonhill died in the River Leven on August 9. Pictures released by family
Talented dancer Ava lost her life in the River Leven in Balloch in 2020. -Credit:Lennox Herald

Joe says the group were overwhelmed with the support they got from locals - and from those they met along the way.

He continued: “I would like to thank Ava’s family, The Ordinary Gift for the leaflets, Keystore in Bonhill for the big bag of munchies they gave us, Julie Murray for setting up my JustGiving and our pal Brian for fixing the bikes.

“We’d also like to thank everybody who donated.

“We got so much moral support from everyone we met along the way; it was such a special experience, and one I’m really proud that we took part in.

“We went to a wee pub in Inverness when we arrived; we met a young man there who scanned our t-shirts to sponsor us. That was very special.”

Joe King, Michael Hegarty Simon Fleming and paul haggerty are raising awareness and funds for The Loch Lomond Rescue Boat
Joe did half the journey in fancy dress to boost funds further. -Credit:Lennox Herald

And Joe revealed that the public support was so generous that he ended up doing half the journey in fancy dress.

He continued: “We only started off aiming to raise £500, and that got smashed. So we put it to £1000. And that got smashed.

“It stalled at about £1400. I put it on Facebook and said if we got to £2000 I’d do part of it dressed as The Grinch.

“We smashed that total too and it’s now well over £3,500

“I’ve been told by my work at Chivas that they will double our total. Which is amazing and something we’re all so grateful for.

“The support from everyone has been amazing.”

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