Letchworth police officers to row in Great Pacific Race from California to Hawaii to raise money for Matthew’s Friends and Great Ormond Street Hospital
- Credit: Archant
A Letchworth boy’s treatment for epilepsy has inspired his dad and three others to row 2,500 miles across the Pacific to raise money for causes that have helped him and his family.
Ten-year-old Hadley Clawson’s dad PC Darren Clawson and his police colleague PC Arron Worbey, from Hitchin, are to row in the Great Pacific Race to raise money for epilepsy charity Matthew’s Friends and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The four-man Endurance Limits rowing team, also including Matthew Knight from Nottingham and Raf Schildermans of Belgium, will leave Monterey in California on Saturday and row unaided to Honolulu in Hawaii. The journey is expected to take anything from 30 to 80 days.
“My son Hadley has an as-yet undiagnosed severe form of drug-resistant epilepsy,” said Darren, 37.
“I have sat helplessly and watched my son have tens of thousands of seizures. Each one hurt me in ways I can’t even begin to explain.
“The seizures took my son away, piece by piece, day by day. With it went my hopes and dreams for him and the future I’d planned for my little family.
“It started about eight years ago and he spent months as an in-patient in Great Ormond Street, where he was treated with a huge variety of powerful drugs.
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“Matthew’s Friends made the ketogenic diet available for Hadley. They held our hands, educated us, stood with us when things were really bad – and we all know that’s the vast majority of the time with kids like ours.
“When I had nowhere else to turn, they were there for me – and more importantly for my wife, my son and his siblings.
“During the days we spent in hospitals we saw the new cases coming in. I pointed numerous families towards Matthew’s Friends.
“It’s too late to save my son or my family from the pain but for you, it might not be. That’s why I’m rowing the Pacific and fundraising for Matthew’s Friends. I’m doing it for you – and if not for you directly, for the ordinary innocent people like my son and my wife and I were.”
Darren and 32-year-old Arron are respectively former pupils of Baldock’s Knights Templar School and Fearnhill School in Letchworth – and before leaving for the USA they visited their old schools, bringing with them the boat they will be rowing.
“We’ve been involved in other difficult challenges previously to raise money for charity but this is going to be tough going,” said Arron.
“It’s been great to visit our old schools to tell them about our journey and the race. We’d like to thank them for their support.”
The team, whose main sponsor is media firm Ascential, have raised more than £6,000 so far.
Nuffield Health in Letchworth provided physiotherapy, gym membership and sports massage during the year-long build-up to the challenge.
They will row in pairs – two hours on, two hours off – 24 hours a day until they reach Honolulu, and will be completely self-sufficient, with their food stored on board along with a machine that will convert sea water to drink.
The boat has neither sails nor engines and can only be moved by the crew pulling on the oars.
On Tuesday the team came out on top in a 25-mile ‘prolog’ race, defeating rivals including an existing world record holder by more than an hour.
“Honestly I’m not sure exactly what will motivate me when we’re out there and it’s getting tough,” said Darren.
“It will probably be something simple - a promise made pre-race or just bloody mindedness.
“Something will settle in my mind as I’m reaching breaking point and then that will be that. There will be nothing but the finish from the moment that happens.
“Once I’ve made that decision there really isn’t a lot that will stop me.”
To follow the team throughout their race, see facebook.com/EnduranceLimits.
To donate see justgiving.com/endurancelimitsMF.
For more on Nuffield Health’s Letchworth branch, see nuffieldhealth.com/gyms/letchworth-garden-city.