Jenny is back in the saddle to save sight
After participating in the online event last year, Jenny Hassell is heading back to Gippsland for the 2022 Lions Ride for Sight.
There is absolutely nothing that could dampen Jenny Hassell’s enthusiasm for the Lions Ride for Sight.
“This ride is a bit like my Brigadoon, I go every year and it’s so different to my city life, familiar faces and places would come to life for four very special days,” says Jenny.
Every year since 1994 Gippsland’s Lions Club District 201V3 has organised a charity cycle through the picturesque Gippsland countryside and raised tens of thousands of dollars to support CERA’s research.
After last year’s event moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ride for Sight is back for 2022 as both a four-day ride throughout Gippsland and four-week challenge riders can complete in their local neighbourhood.
Jenny, who worked at CERA for 20 years as a researcher alongside Professor Jill Keeffe, discovered her love of cycling through the Ride for Sight.
“I became quite involved with the ride when I first started off driving a support vehicle,” says Jenny.
“I saw all of these fabulous country riders, who were double my age at the time, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. As soon as I came home I bought a bike, and I’ve been riding ever since.”
The Ride for Sight spurred on Jenny’s love of cycling and pushed her to ride several challenging routes, including Tasmania’s east coast and Paris to Berlin.
While she no longer works at CERA, Jenny is still a fixture of the Ride for Sight every year and has many treasured memories of the event.
“We were riding through Tarra-Bulga National Park one year, and all of a sudden we pulled into a little park and there were tables laden with food, tea urns on, and men and women everywhere bringing in cakes from their kitchens,” says Jenny.
“It was like Alice in Wonderland where the magic suddenly appears, and then they’d pack up and it’d be gone.”
The event is also a highlight for everyone who gets involved along the way, even from unexpected sources.
“One year there was a guy from overseas on a cycling holiday, and he just came along and joined the ride for a few of the legs,” says Jenny.
“It was a wonderful thing for him to be swept up and along with us for a few hours.”
The event is also an inspiration for her time working with vision-impaired people, who Jenny used to teach pottery to before she started working in public health.
“A few people came with tandems so blind people could join in. Still to this day people come with tandems and a blind person on the back,” Jenny says.
“You can see everyone, all the volunteers and all the participants, really get a lot out of it.”
In 2018 she was awarded the Dr Bob Coulthard Award recognition award for Lions Eye Health Program empowering communities to save sight.
Online and offline
Following the success of last year’s four-week online Ride for Sight Challenge, this year the event will take place both in-person and online.
The traditional four-day 350 km ride through Gippsland will start at Loch Sport near Sale on April 6, snaking along the coast before heading inland and finishing at Warragal on April 10. Riders will be supported by Lions Clubs at every stop of the way.
The second is return of the four-week Ride for Sight Challenge. Starting on March 14 and finishing on 10 April, participants are challenged to ride 400km in their local area.
Last year Jenny participated in the online version of the event.
“For me, my bike got me through COVID,” says Jenny.
“I worked from home and the bike was my outlet, I just got out and rode nearly every day, it was a source of physical exercise and great relief for me.”
Despite only running online, last year the Ride for Sight raised an extraordinary $43,000 to support CERA’s work. This year the organisers have set the ambitious goal of $60,000 combined across both versions of the event.
How to get involved
Participants for the four-week challenge can also register online.
For more information, visit the Ride for Sight website.