By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
TORQUAY cricketer Neal Osborn has saddled-up for a charity bike ride to raise money for a cause that really is close to his heart.
Neal, 21, is aiming to cover 350 miles in seven days while cranking-up sponsorship for the British Heart Foundation.
Neal, a PE instructor who works all over South Devon with primary school pupils, has set himself the target of raising at least £500 for the charity, which he believes helped save his father’s life.
Paul Osborn, who is 61 and lives in Kingskerswell, could have died after suffering a heart attack. Only prompt action by a work colleague and paramedics saved his life.
Neal, a goal-keeping trainee attached to the Southampton FC academy at the time, said he arrived at work to learn from the club’s welfare officer that his father was in a coma and being treated at hospital in Taunton.
“I was told my dad had been dragged from his boss’ car and his boss performed roadside CPR on him waiting for the ambulance to arrive,” said Neal.
“My father went 36 minutes without oxygen to his brain and needed to be defibrillated seven times.
“This was an extremely traumatic and frightening time for our family and, thankfully, dad has now recovered and doing well.
“Without the help of the British Heart Foundation and all the vital equipment and research they provide, I am unsure whether pops would be here today.
“All my family are extremely grateful to the BHF for their continued work and will do anything we can to aid them.”
Neal set aside half-term week, when he was not due to be in school, to embark on seven-day sponsored ride covering 250 miles. He expected to finish near Birmingham.
Covid-19 restrictions meant a rewriting the itinerary to comply with them.
“Originally, I planned to cycle 250 miles in seven days, staying at camp sites overnight along the way,” said Neal.
“As all the camp sites are closed I had to think again, so decided to do 50-odd miles a day from home, return every night and set out again in a different direction the following day.
“That changed again as a particularly generous donor offered me a sizeable sum of money if I covered 200 miles in the first four days. Of course I said ‘yes’.
“My final plan is to do the 200-mile challenge first then carry on for another three days until I reach 350 miles.”
Day one of Neal’s cycle marathon was the slog from Bovey Tracey to Brixham Breakwater via Newton Abbot and Torquay – and back again.
Other destinations include a ride to Salcombe through the scenic lanes of the South Hams.
“I don’t want it to become mundane so the scenery I am riding through has to be good,” said Neal, who intends finishing his ride at Torquay CC between 4.30-5pm on Sunday.
As well as raising money the ride will help Neal keep fit for the start of the next football season, whenever that may be.
Although things did not work out at Southampton for Neal he has played at non-league level with Tiverton Town, Plymouth Parkway, Stoke Gabriel and Tavistock Town. Last season he was between the sticks for Peninsula League side Newton Spurs, where he aims to play next season.
Within hours of Neal’s JustGiving page going live, sponsorship promises started coming in. By the time he set off for Brixham Breakwater on Monday more than £250 had been pledged.
Click here to visit Neal’s JustGiving page and make a sponsorship pledge.