THE NUMBERS have been crunched – with the organisers of the 40th annual Lions Raft Race pleased to announce the event paddled to victory once again, raising more than £11,000 to support local people with learning disabilities.

A cheque for £11,200 has now been presented to Heart of England Mencap, almost 6 months after 54 teams took to the River Avon in their home-made crafts to paddle 7.5 miles downstream, all in the name of charity.

The 2016 Raft Race took place on Sunday July 24th, with Heart of England Mencap being the main beneficiary for the 40th anniversary of the event, jointly organised by the Wellesbourne and District and Shakespeare Lions Clubs.

Every penny raised will now be used to boost fundraising for specialist cycles and storage – allowing people with learning disabilities to get out, keep fit and experience the joy of cycling.

HofE Mencap currently has three trikes available for customers to use – thanks to previous fundraising, grants and donations. The dream was to build the fleet – but each bike costs thousands and the charity also needs a safe place to store them, and a safe place for them to be ridden and enjoyed.

“The ultimate dream is a dedicated track, with storage on site plus parking, toilets and refreshment facilities,” Cath Errington, Fundraising Manager for Heart of England Mencap said.

“And thanks to the Lions and to everyone who took part in this year’s Raft Race, we are now within reach of that dream and in discussions as to a potential location.

“We will also be able to purchase those new bikes our customers had their hearts set on. A hand cycle will enable people in a wheelchair but with strength in their arms to experience the joy of cycling. A side by side bike will allow a worker to ride with a customer, meaning that even those who don’t have much physical strength can still benefit from the experience.

“We owe a huge thanks to the Lions for their support – and to all of the rafters who braved the challenge. As we said in the beginning, we are a small charity – and this amount of money will make a very real difference to us and to local lives.”

Kelvin McIntosh, Race Committee Chairman for the Lions, said: “This was a milestone year for the race and we thank everyone who entered, got into the water, and made it a success for the 40th time. Special thanks to our sponsors, The Rosconn Group and M6 Toll.

“We are very proud to support Heart of England Mencap and all of the local people with learning disabilities that this money will help. We look forward to seeing them on the cycle track soon.”