The father of a young girl who had a life-saving heart operation is tackling a gruelling cycle challenge to raise money for the specialist hospital that cared for her.
Neill Furmston, 43, will pedal 240 miles from London to Paris on May 20 to raise cash for The Brompton Foundation, part of the Royal Brompton Hospital in London which cared for his five-year-old daughter Olivia.
Mr Furmston, who lives in Northchurch with wife Suzanne and both their daughters, has been training for nine months after joining his local cycling club.
He said: “I’ve been doing 100-odd miles each week and I’ve been getting out to Ashridge, Hastoe Hill and I even did Whiteleaf in Princes Risborough.
“I always seem to go for hills when I go out, which is just as well living around here.
“I got my first mountain bike when I turned 40, but road cycling became a big thing, mainly thanks to Bradley Wiggins I think, so I bought a road bike and never looked back.”
Little Olivia, who will turn six in June, was diagnosed with a heart murmur when she was just six weeks old.
The tot underwent major surgery when she was two months old after doctors discovered she had no wall between the bottom two chambers, as well as five holes in her heart.
The St Thomas More School pupil endured a seven-hour operation two years ago, but has wowed doctors with her rapid progress.
Mr Furmston, who works in advertising in London, aimed to raise £2,000 for the hospital, but has smashed that target with £2,235 in the bag – and there are still 21 days to go.
The first leg of the ride will be from the capital to Dover, before heading on to the second stop of Amiens and finally rolling into the finish line in the French capital.
The money raised will help The Brompton Foundation support more families who have children staying at the hospital, and Mr Furmston says Olivia has told of how she wants to help in the future.
He said: “She’s nuts about babies and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up, so she can help all the poorly children.
“The foundation was amazing because of the facilities it provides – none of which are founded by the NHS. They made our time there just a little more bearable.”
Now the family are concentrating on enjoying life to the full with Olivia, who now she is healthy can enjoy all the things a five-year-old should.
A recent milestone was a trip to Barcelona during the Easter holidays, as flying was something Olivia was unable to do before her operation.
To donate, visit www. doitforcharity.com/Neillf