Lions Ride for Sight
At 83, Jim’s still riding for sight
After COVID-19 put an end to last year’s Lions Ride for Sight, veteran cyclist Jim Allen is back on his bike to raise money for vision research in 2021.
At 83, Boisdale dairy farmer Jim Allen has no plans to retire – from his daily work on the farm or his annual 400 km bike ride to raise money for vision research.
Since 2004 the veteran cyclist has pedalled more than 6000 km and raised thousands of dollars for the Centre for Eye Research Australia as part of the Lions Rides for Sight, organised by Gippsland’s Lions District 201V3.
He has tackled tough terrains, enjoyed the comradeship of fellow riders and been inspired by the stories of vision-impaired riders who have joined the trek.
And he is not letting age – or a global pandemic – stop his fundraising goals.
In recent years, friends and fellow riders have assured him that it is ok to retire from the ride after such an enormous contribution.
Instead, rather than bow out of the event, he decided to get an electric-powered bike to make the trek a little easier on his legs.
Inspired by friendship
In his earlier years, Jim was part of local community sport, playing tennis, squash and football.
He did not take up cycling until he was 66, but once he started was completely hooked.
“I absolutely love cycling, it is my great joy,’’ he says. “When I go for a ride and then get back off the bike, I am so relaxed.’’
Jim was inspired to cycle and support the Lions Ride for Sight by his great mate, the late Denis Booth from Sale, a former Empire Games boxer.
“I was talking to Denis when I turned 66 and he told me he was riding in a group called the SADSACs (Sale and District Sunday Afternoon Cycling). He suggested I come on the ride. It was the best thing I’ve ever done,’’ he says.
After his many years of dedicated fundraising, Denis retired from the ride due to ill-health and passed away in March. Jim is keen to keep riding to continue his friend’s legacy.
He is also inspired by the many vision-impaired people he has met on the Ride for Sight. He says it has been an honour to guide so many vision-impaired riders through the demanding course on tandem bikes.
“I have met so many people who show such tremendous courage and it reminds me how important research is, and that there is so much we still need to learn about sight,’’ he says.
Since it began the Lions Ride for Sight has raised more than $1 million for eye research.
Last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lions District 2013V3 reluctantly cancelled the ride.
Despite the disappointment, the generosity of the Gippsland community shone through when many supporters donated their event sponsorship money, raising $30,000 for CERA.
With the current uncertainty around planning this year, event organisers have taken a different tack.
Riders will be challenged to ride 400kms at locations and courses of their choices between 13 March and 11 April 2021. You can support a nominated rider online or via a sponsorship form and it’s hoped all riders will raise a minimum of $250.
Jim, who cycles around roads on his farm, is already planning several rides. He says Boisdale’s central location provides lots of options.
The new format is expected to attract some new riders – including a number of CERA staff who will don their cycling gear along with our Gippsland supporters.
CERA Managing Director Professor Keith Martin says the event is a great way to stay fit and healthy, and also contribute towards CERA achieving its goal of a world-free from vision loss and blindness.
“The funds raised by the ride will play a critical role in helping our researchers tackle diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and inherited retinal diseases.
“We sincerely appreciate all of the support we have received from riders and Lions Districts 2013V3 over more than a quarter of a century, and their ongoing commitment to raising precious funds for our research.”
Professor Martin, a keen cyclist himself, will use his daily commute on bicycle to CERA to complete the challenge, encouraging friends, family and colleagues to support a great cause.
How to get involved
You can sign up to get involved in the Lions Ride for Sight, or to sponsor one of the riders on the Lions Ride for Sight 2021 page on raisely.com
You can also sponsor riders directly via forms provided by event organisers. Contact John on 0401 218 974 or via email: [email protected]
Vale Denis Booth
On behalf of everyone at CERA, we express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Denis Booth who passed away on 3 March.
Denis was a champion in every sense of the word – a boxing champion, he won bronze at the 1966 Commonwealth Games, before becoming an avid supporter of Lions Club Ride for Sight later in life.
Denis participated in 25 rides raising vital funds to support our research to prevent vision loss and blindness. We extend our thanks and sincere condolences to Denis’ family, friends and fellow riders.
- This story, originally published on 24 February 2021, has been updated to reflect the passing of Denis Booth.