By the grace of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, 39 dedicated kishoris from Leicester cycled over 600 miles across the city on Saturday 30 August 2008 as part of a campaign for the upcoming BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir & Cultural Complex at Gipsy Lane in Leicester. The objective was to raise funds for women’s activities in the new complex and promote better health and fitness awareness within the Asian community.
The cycle challenge interlinked with a health awareness initiative for the local community with stalls from charities including Diabetes UK, The British Heart Foundation, Breast Cancer Care UK and Asthma UK, all providing medical advice and health screenings throughout the day.
The opening ceremony was graced by The Right Worshipful Lord Mayor of Leicester, Cllr Dr Manjula Sood, who inaugurated the occasion with the traditional deep pragatya,and who was then honoured with a bouquet of flowers. Councillor Sood delivered motivating words, speaking of her admiration of the work of BAPS particularly citing the role of women and Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, which she had recently visited with her family.
The event had been keenly supported by The Cyclists Touring Club (CTC), UK’s National Cyclists organisation, who provided bicycles, helmets, mile counters and also valuable guidance on cycle maintenance and health and safety. Present during the opening ceremony were two representatives: Elizabeth Barner of CTC and Anna Singleton from ‘Bikes 4 All’.
Ms Barner who had also helped train the kishoris over the recent months described how she had witnessed them develop from being nervous, inexperienced cyclists to becoming far more confident individuals, being able to ride their bicycles even amid traffic on public roads. She was particularly impressed with the young BAPS women for the enthusiasm and leadership they brought to the event. She expressed that by choosing cycling as their method of fundraising, the group of kishoris had significantly honoured their health, fitness and the environment, and asked the wider audience to appreciate and follow this initiative. Elizabeth and Anna were both thanked with a trophy and bouquet.
The participants then assembled with their bicycles at St Margaret’s Pastures for the flagging off. Each cycled a three-mile route alongside Ross Walk and parts of Abbey Park numerous times in glorious August sunshine until they completed their individual targets.
Stalls and activities for all the supporters ensured that everyone had a great time throughout the day. Children played in a bouncy castle and had face painting and sack races to entertain them. And while the adults enjoyed a game of cricket and visited an informative exhibition on BAPS Leicester, women were encouraged to participate in the health screening tests.
The closing ceremonies saw each kishori-cyclist being rewarded for her efforts with a certificate, and confirmed that the initial 500-mile collective target had been exceeded to 654 miles and the target of £5,000 had been surpassed to £6,650. Keyuri Patel was awarded two trophies – for raising the highest level of funds and contacting the most number of people.
The event provided an opportunity for friends and the wider community to have a fun, healthy day and also support the new BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir & Cultural Complex in Leicester.
The event also featured on the BBC website. Click here for the full report.
For more information about the new Leicester project, please click here.
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