Charity bike ride raises funds for one of the league’s most treasured characters
A CHARITY bike ride for one of Non-League’s most treasured characters, George Melling, raised over £ 12,000.
Earlier this year, “Big G,” as he is affectionately known, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND) at the age of 36, prompting the Non-League family to rally in support fundraising efforts.
A tough center-back to attack, Melling went through the youth systems at Blackpool and Morecambe before making his first-team debut at 20 for Altrincham.
He went on to play for a host of North West football clubs including Lancaster City and Nortwich Victoria over the next 15 years, becoming a fan favorite wherever he went. Indeed, many of these former clubs have shown their support by fundraising.
PEDAL POWER: George Melling meets the cycling team on day three at Ashton United
In April, more than 30 people including George’s fiancee Nicci and a number of former teammates and friends completed a special Three Peaks Challenge where they carried George’s bodyweight (101kg) over two. stretchers across Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.
Recently two of his former managers, Mark Fell and Lee Ashcroft of Lancaster City, Longridge Town, hosted their own Ride4George fundraising event which saw their team – along with Farrell Kilbane, Andy Teague and Danny Mahoney, mainstays of the non-league – venture out on a three-day bike ride, passing through several former clubs in Melling.
The group traveled 240 miles in three days to visit nine football clubs. Ashcroft drove the primary support vehicle while Fell completed the three days in the saddle, and it was quick to congratulate the other riders who helped him out.
“I’m so glad we won it,” Fell said. “But I have to say that without the constant support throughout Farrell and Andy’s journey to protect us from the elements and lead us when the going got tough, I would have had a hard time getting through this.
“The journey up the hills across Staffordshire to Leek in terrible weather was really tough and personally, as a non-cyclist, I needed their help during this time”,
“I also have to give special thanks to Danny who was brilliant at keeping morale up with his jokes and singing throughout the day.”
The epic journey began in Kendal Town passing through Lancaster Town, Bamber Bridge and Coppull United, before the group ended their first day with a night at the Macron Stadium Hotel, home of the Bolton Wanderers.
On the second day they visited Altrincham, Northwich Victoria and Leek Town before spending the night in Macclesfield.
Former Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Mike Pollitt joined the intrepid group for the first two days of the challenge while George and Nicci were part of the epic journey set, mostly thanks to the donation of a motorhome from A6 Motorhome Hire to Chorley, the company that had also supplied a similar vehicle for The 3 Peaks Challenge in April.
After surviving the bad weather the day before, the group left on the last day picking up Ashton United and Nelson before making their way to their final destination of Longridge Town.
Fell also praised all the clubs visited by the group. “The support from every club has been fantastic, from the very beginning in Kendal Town to Longridge Town, with great reception from people on all fields,” he commented.
And Ashcroft added: “The idea of the trip was not only to raise funds for George and raise awareness of the MND campaign, but also to give George and Nicci a bit of a break from this difficult time.
“I can honestly tell you that from the minute we picked it up until the minute we dropped it off, we laughed nonstop.
“It was great to see George in such a great state of mind. At the end of each day we checked into a hotel and on Saturday night bumped into my former West Brom teammate Chris Hargreaves, who was covering the Stockport v Torquay game the next day and he gave us a great mention on BT Sport which was great exposure for what we’re trying to do.
Ashcroft also reserved special praise for her former skipper.
“Every interview that George does, who he speaks to, whether it’s on TV, radio or in a newspaper, he’s so inspiring,” he added. “The way he raises awareness about the disease is really fantastic, he’s still this leader that I’ve known for many years.
George himself admitted he was totally overwhelmed by the fundraising efforts of his friends, family and former teammates, especially thanking this latest fundraiser.
“I cannot thank Mark Fell enough for a monumental effort in organizing the cycling challenge,” he beamed.
“Each of the cyclists and supporting volunteers, including another of my former teammates Keiran Walmsley, have been amazing over the three days, we cannot thank them enough.”
And Nicci added: “We would also like to thank A6 Motorhomes and Kelly Drew in particular for their help in providing vehicles for our fundraisers, they have played an important role in our efforts thus far. “
If you would like to help and / or contribute to fundraising efforts – or if you just need more information – please email [email protected] or see Instagram @help_big_g