IT was more than a decade ago when 12 hours changed the lives of Brian and Emma Gale from Beaminster.
In that time they lost their three-year-old son Oscar to streptococcal meningitis.
Now – having been inspired by Emma’s London Marathon run three years ago when she raised around £6000 for Meningitis Research – Brian is heading off for a four-day 300-mile cycle ride between London and Paris on May 8.
He is raising money for the Meningitis Research Foundation and Beaminster Playgroup, of which he is a trustee.
Self-employed electrician Brian said: “It is going to be quite a challenge but I have been training hard.
“It will also be hard leaving the family but I have got to do it. I don’t want to let them down.”
He was also inspired to do the challenge by the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish.
Brian said: “Watching the Tour do France over the last few years and the Olympics with Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish had a real effect on me and one of the reasons I thought I might be able to do cycling.”
He’s had to get used to the difference between mountain and road biking and his training has been gruelling with the cold, wet and wind.
He said: “It’s been unbelievable. The last six weeks the wind hasn’t stopped. Going up by Rampisham I had a job to stay on the bike. And going off road to build up my stamina has been hard because everywhere was so wet.”
He wants to raise money for the playgroup as all his children have been or go there – Oscar did, and then Edward, 11, Toby, 9 and now Lulu, 3.
He said: “Beaminster Playgroup provides an amazing environment for pre-school children and is always in need of extra funding to update equipment and improve facilities for the children.”
Oscar died just before his fourth birthday on the May Bank Holiday 2001.
It was in the day’s before mobile phones were common and Brian had gone to work.
When he returned it was to a call from Southampton Hospital.
He said: “My wife took him into hospital and at first nobody recognised it but my sister-in-law who is a nurse practitioner in Bridport knew what it was straight away but within 12 hours of being diagnosed he was dead.
“He was rushed to Southampton and I didn’t even realise until I got home from work and got a call from the hospital.
“It was life-changing. My wife was 18 when I met her and pregnant within three months so for four years we had either pregnancy or a child and then suddenly there was this massive hole.
“Your life rotates around the child and what you can and can’t do. Then you have to adjust to not having him.
“You look at life a bit differently after that. You just don’t expect it.”
The couple are kept informed by the Meningitis Foundation of new research and they hope that raising money will help protect others from the devastation they suffered.
Donations to Brian’s causes can be made at justgiving.com/Brian-Gale1 or there are sponsorship forms at Beaminster Playgroup.
He added: “I would really like to thank people who sponsored me.”