With the biting Melbourne wind pushing on La Trobe street, Michelle Jelleff and her posse of pedellers smiled with relief as they concluded a five-week cross-country bike ride.
The itinerary alone was enough to make any fitness buff weak at the knees, involving five weeks of cycling across the country, from Perth to RMIT’s City campus for her and a dozen other daring riders.
“The longest day of riding was 226km from Southern Cross to Kalgoorlie with many other days over 175km,” Jelleff, co-founder of START Foundation and RMIT staff member, said.
Two years in the making, and hour upon hour of training, the Ride for the Royal Adelaide Hospital, officially launched the START Foundation, an organisation that assists those with disabilities to achieve their sporting dreams.
“Because this was the launch of START Foundation, we visited a number of schools and community groups along the way,” Jelleff said, describing the ride as a tremendous opportunity to tell the START story to inspire others.
Established in 2013, START Foundation was co-founded and built upon the inspiring story of Michelle’s sister-in-law, Kerryn Harvey.
“Kerryn lost her arm and shoulder in a minor cycling accident in Adelaide,” she says.
“From the fall she unfortunately picked up a bacterium in the wound on her elbow known as clostridium septicum, which causes necrotizing fasciitis – a flesh-eating disease.”
One of the saving graces of this experience was the fact that Kerryn had cycling insurance through Bicycle Network Victoria (BNV).
“You don't need to be of the same calibre as Cadel Evans to warrant cycling insurance and BNV provide excellent and inexpensive cycling insurance as part of their membership,” Jelleff said.
“BNV’s package was pivotal in enabling Kerryn to get through her rehabilitation and to re-establish a lifestyle that suited her, from car modification to household gadgets.”
“I mean, can you imagine buttering toast with one hand?”
After adapting to her new life and completing her rehabilitation, Harvey has returned to the sports she loves and participated in the herculean ride.
“Initially Kerryn wanted to achieve her sporting dream of cycling across Australia and raising funds to support a vital research project for the Royal Adelaide Hospital, which saved her life two years ago,” Jelleff said.
Now that she has returned, Jelleff hopes Harvey’s story travels far beyond the ride and continues to inspire people despite life’s obstacles, demonstrating that where there’s a will there’s a way.
“START Foundation's mission is empowerment and confidence through sport and we hope that our adventure assists and inspires people with disabilities to achieve their sporting dreams.”