Riding For Hope's team of 4 friends over 60 to cycle 1,600km in UK to raise funds for NKF

The team consisting of (from left) Michael Ngu, Tag Sin Siew, Tan Ah Chwee and Tee Lay Kern, will cycle through the entire United Kingdom in a 16-day trip. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Four friends, whose ages add up to 257 years, are not letting their age hold back their love for cycling or their passion for giving back to society.

In fact, they will be challenging themselves to a gruelling 1,600km route come July, in a bid to raise funds for The National Kidney Foundation (NKF).

Their initiative, termed Riding For Hope, will see the team cycle through the entire United Kingdom in a 16-day trip, beginning at Land's End and ending at John O'Groats.

Team leader Tag Sin Siew, 60, a development manager and member of one of NKF's sub-committees, said of the initiative, which he organised: "I think because of NKF's past history, fundraising efforts are not so active. We hope to bring back the public's confidence in the organisation, as NKF requires a lot of support and funding."

He will be joined by his two friends, architect Michael Ngu, 62 and Mr Tee Lay Kern, 61, a former IT manager, and his brother-in-law, Mr Tan Ah Chwee, 74, who is retired.

Mr Ngu, whose legs are immobilised due to a bout of childhood polio, will take his journey on the handcycle, which is powered by his arms instead of legs.

The team hopes to raise $257,000, signifying their combined age of 257 years old, for NKF.

Riding For Hope was launched on Sunday (May 6) at the official opening of the Admiralty branch of The Hour Glass-NKF Dialysis Centre, the first of two dialysis centres sponsored by The Hour Glass, a luxury watch retail group which donated $2 million to NKF in 2015.

Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan was the guest of honour. The centre began operations in September last year.

With the Government's dollar-for-dollar matching grant, NKF was able to set up two centres under The Hour Glass donation. The other centre is located in West Coast and began operations earlier this year.

Both branches have 19 dialysis stations and can serve 114 patients each.

Mr Vincent Tan, 51, a therapist assistant, is one of those patients.

The Woodlands resident was diagnosed with a kidney disease three years ago and needs to have dialysis three times a week, each time for over four hours.

Before the Admiralty branch was set up, he had to travel to the Bukit Panjang branch, which was a journey that involved two bus changes and took up to 45 minutes.

But the new centre is only afive-minute walk away from his home.

He said: "This centre gives me a greater peace of mind since I don't have to rush and I think holistically that's better for me and my treatment."

The Riding For Hope team (in cycling jerseys) posing for a photo with Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan at the Admiralty branch of The Hour Glass-NKF Dialysis Centre. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

NKF, the biggest dialysis provider in Singapore serving some 4,300 patients, currently has 34 dialysis centres. Seven more are slated to be set up by 2020 in locations such as Marsiling and Punggol.

One of the centres will be a mega-centre in Jurong, with 120 dialysis stations, that will begin its first phase of operations this month.

This comes amid increasing prevalence of kidney failure. Five people are diagnosed with kidney failure in Singapore daily, up from four a day six years ago. The number is projected to increase to 5.8 people in 2020. In 2016 alone, there were 1,166 new dialysis patients.

In conjunction with increasing the number of dialysis centres to meet the demand of dialysis patients, NKF is also looking to increase live organ transplant numbers through education and outreach.

Of the 247 patients on the kidney transplant waitlist last year, 93 received new kidneys - 53 from deceased donors and 40 from live donors.

Mr Tim Oei, chief executive officer of NKF, said: "Kidney transplant is the closest thing these patients have to a cure... but there's some concern that live organ donor numbers are not really rising.

"There are some concerns surrounding live kidney transplant. People worry about the effects of the medication involved and some are worried that they cannot work after the transplant. NKF is here to allay those concerns by offering support to donors' medical cost and any loss in income they might suffer."

Members of the public interested in supporting Riding For Hope can go to the NKF website at https://www.nkfs.org/event/riding-for-hope/ for more information.

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