Perth helicopter paramedics turn to pedal power for Etape charity fundraiser

Two paramedics from the Perth-based Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) are turning to pedal power to help keep the charity’s rotors running.

John Pritchard and Rich Garside have signed up for Team SCAA in next month’s Etape Caledonia cycling challenge, joining cyclists from all across the world in the welcome return of the popular Highland Perthshire event.

More than 30 riders have signed up to support SCAA so far with organizers hoping to match last year’s 50-strong team tackling the 40 and 85-mile courses.

“SCAA flies to serious illnesses and injuries in Highland Perthshire on a regular basis,” explained John.

“So it will be nice to see it from a more recreational perspective and join thousands of other cyclists on the route through this beautiful part of the country.”

John’s partner Cora Donaldson, a critical care staff nurse at Perth Royal Infirmary, will also be taking on the challenge as will Rich’s wife Nicola.

“This is my third time competing in Etape and I’m proud to be supporting SCAA alongside John and Rich,” said Cora.

“I realize the difference an air ambulance makes in the country’s pre-hospital care service and SCAA’s two helicopters – based at Perth and Aberdeen – play a vital role.”

SCAA paramedics Rich Garside (left) and John Pritchard will tackle the 85-mile challenge to support their charity. Provided by Maureen Young of SCAA.

Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance’s EC135 T2i helicopter in action

While keen cyclist John hopes to record a time of under five hours, Rich jokes that he’ll be happy if he completes the course before everyone packs up and goes home.

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“My passion is running rather than cycling,” admitted Rich, “but the charity was looking for volunteers so Nicola and I decided to step up and join in the challenge. It should be a great day out and a chance for people to either support SCAA by taking part themselves or by sponsoring us in our fundraising efforts.”

Also keen to add their cycling prowess to SCAA’s team effort on May 15 is Ruth Howie, also a critical care staff nurse at PRI.

“SCAA is a tremendous charity that relies on public support to keep its life-saving service going,” she said.

“People in the health service have been really supportive of our fundraising, along with family and friends so hopefully we can all give something back to the charity.”

Knowing of the vital work carried out by SCAA, Perth Airport supervisor and experienced cyclist Tom Smith is again joining Team SCAA for the 2022 outing.

He said: “This is my third time cycling for SCAA.

“I’ve got to know the charity and the Perth-based crew through my work and the role they fulfilled for the people of Scotland is just amazing.

“I’m delighted to be able to support them.” Tom finished in the top 100 last year and aims to break the 75 mark this year.

“We’ll only see Tom from behind – if at all,” said John.

“He’s a seasoned cyclist and will set a cracking pace. The rest of us might take just a little longer.”

Events co-ordinator at SCAA Fiona Dennis praised everyone signing up to take part in Team SCAA and urged anyone interested to get in touch.

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She said: “It’s a thrilling event through some of the country’s most beautiful countryside.

“Not only will you have a great day out but you could be helping SCAA to save lives through your support.

“It’s fantastic to have two of our wonderful paramedics and their partners join our amazing team of cycling supporters this year.

“All four were signed up to do it last year and had to defer their places due to their pandemic and work commitments, so I am delighted that they are all able to take part this May instead.”

Cyclists can take advantage of one of SCAA’s FREE charity places which involve no registration fee or entry costs.

Contact Fiona on [email protected] or 07599 107603 for further information.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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