Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in Consett without the chance to catch a glimpse of a fleet of Santas whizzing around and raising money for the charity Brain Tumour Research.
Since losing Adam Forster to a brain tumour in May 2014, his family has worked with the charity to channel their grief into fundraising and raising awareness of this devastating disease. Adam, who farmed at Camperdown, Shotley Bridge, died aged 42, after being diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).
This December a group of fundraisers known as the Biking Santas are holding their 7th annual Santa Bike Run in Adam’s memory. The event, organised by Adam’s dad, Terry Forster, 70, sees a procession of Santa Clauses motorbike through the streets of Consett, bringing with them some festive cheer. Terry, who rides his vintage Harley Davidson each year, leads his merry band on a trip around the town. The bikes are decked out in fairy lights, tinsel and Christmas cuddly toys; one of them towing a ‘sleigh’ carrying Homer Simpson dressed as Father Christmas!
Keen hunting man Adam bravely fought his inoperable tumour, undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Despite treatment, Adam deteriorated rapidly and passed away just 10 months after his diagnosis. He left his parents Terry and Ann, sister Kerry Robson, brother-in-law Carl and three young nieces, Gracie, Ellie and Lauren.
Kerry, 40, said: “Losing Adam was crushing. It still is. This year has been really pivotal in terms of our grieving. With the national lockdown forcing us all to slow down and take stock, I’ve had more time to reflect on losing Adam and process what happened.
“After such a strange year, it seems more appropriate than ever for Dad and his motorbiking friends to be bringing some joy to the community this Christmas. Our fundraising has been scaled back this year, due to the pandemic. Normally we do a sponsored walk, organise a Halloween Ball and host a Christmas quiz but it’s been so difficult with the COVID restrictions in place. Adam would love the fact that we are all still committed to donning our fancy dress to do something a bit daft in his memory.”
The festive spectacle has been adapted for 2020 to ensure it is COVID-secure. This year they are riding in smaller groups and they will not be playing the pipes and drums at their usual venues. Instead, they are visiting streets and housing estates in the Derwentside area every weekend in December, in the run-up to Christmas.
Kerry, who dresses up as an elf to support the riders, added: “People have been requesting visits via the Biking Santas Facebook page. We have been inundated with requests, so rather than having the event on just one day we’ve extended it to every weekend in December. Social distancing is being adhered to at all times and we kind asking members of the public to do the same.”
Kerry’s dad Terry is the founding member of ‘The Biking Vikings’, a small group of friends, who provide Viking-themed entertainment, including stilt-walking and live music, at public and private events.
Kerry said: “Dad and the Biking Vikings haven’t been able to do their usual fundraising this year either but all being well, we are working on big plans for 2021, assuming that the restrictions will be lifted at some point.
“We have all been affected by the pandemic and sadly charities have suffered financially too. Our aim is to raise awareness and funds for Brain Tumour Research, whilst cheering everyone up and putting a smile on lots of faces at the end of a difficult year. Collection buckets are available on the bikes and people can also donate via our JustGiving page. We love holding this event and get so much pleasure seeing people waving, tooting and cheering as the bikers pass by.”
The family has raised more than £21,000 for Brain Tumour Research to date and this year’s Banking Santas event has already raised £471 to add to that astonishing total.
Matthew Price, community fundraising manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
“The ongoing support of Adam’s family is invaluable to us and we are delighted that they are overcoming the challenges imposed by COVID and committing to more fundraising this Christmas.
“Christmas is a time for family and celebration but we know that many people affected by brain tumours are suffering as they are mourning or facing a bleak future. We cannot allow this situation to continue.”
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure. The charity is calling for an annual spend of £35m in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.
To donate go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/santabikerun7