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Service users in training for charity cycle ride

​Two service users at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) are in training to take part in a 50-mile cycling event for charity next month.

Joe Antoniou, 36, and Darren Downie, 47, who are both at the Norvic Clinic on St Andrews Business Park, Norwich, will take part in the circular Autumn Classic Sportive at Swanton Morley, near Dereham, on Sunday, 7 October.

Their target is to raise a total of £2,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support and Nelson's Journey, a Norfolk charity that supports children and young people up to their 18th birthday who have experienced the death of a significant person in their life.

They chose those charities because Joe's mother died as a result of cancer and Darren's mother took her own life when he was a child.

Joe, who is raising money for Macmillan, said: "I wanted to do this charity event in honour of my mum who passed away from cancer.

"I want to make her feel proud of me for raising money to help others battling with cancer."

Darren said: "I'm cycling for Nelson's Journey because it's close to my heart, due to my mum's suicide when I was a child.

"I want to help other children who have also lost family and friends close to them by raising this money. Go Team Sonic Boom!"

The pair are being trained by a team of fitness therapy technical instructors based at the Norvic Clinic, who include Jason Palmer.

"We regularly ask service users what sort of activities they would like to take part in and back in the spring some of them expressed an interest in cycling, including taking part in an event," he said.

"When Darren and Joe first discussed the idea of raising money through cycling, their fitness levels were quite low and they were riding only 2-3 miles at a time but since then they have been working hard and are now cycling up to 30 miles.

"I've been working primarily with Joe and as a result of his hard work, he has not only improved his aerobic fitness levels, he has also lost weight. In addition, he is now feeling good about himself and has rightly taken pride in what he has achieved so far."

Joe, who comes from Cambridgeshire, has been a service user at the Norvic Clinic for five years and Darren, from Lowestoft, for almost two years.

They have been training on country lanes on poor quality bikes that the Norvic Clinic has acquired over the years, including a tandem.

Joe has been doing some additional training on a spin bike in a gym while Darren has been building up his strength by sometimes cycling while wearing a rucksack full of tins of baked beans.

Jason said the sportive would be completed on hybrid bikes which have been paid for from a combination of NHS money and funds that have been raised.

Last month, he was joined by Joe and Darren at the Arminghall car boot sale near Norwich, where a total of £144.85 was raised by the sale of some of the Norvic Clinic's bike stock and also by the sale of items donated by staff there, including handbags, DVDs, plates, computer games and sheets.

A total of three bikes worth £1,050 have been bought from the Pedal Revolution bike shop in Bethel Street, Norwich, which Jason thanked for giving a £200 discount. The bikes will arrive at the Norvic Clinic shortly.

He also thanked Martin and Judith Nudd, owners of the Prima Rosa tea room in Salhouse where he, Joe and Darren often stop while on training rides for encouraging their customers to sponsor the ride.

Dr Toral Thomas, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, said: "Both Joe and Darren have put a lot of hard work into their training. They have been on their bikes regardless of heat, rain and cold to ensure the success of this cycle challenge.

"Jason Palmer and the team at the Norvic Clinic have really got behind this cause and have been working hard with Joe and Darren to make this a success.  We hope everyone will get behind them and show their support!"

Jason and a fellow fitness therapy technical instructor will cycle with Joe and Darren on 7 October.

* Anyone interested in sponsoring Darren and Joe should visit

Caption (left to right): Joe, Jason and Darren.

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