Letchworth author to ride to Everest in memory of son

PUBLISHED: 14:30 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:01 21 March 2019

Richard Barr has released a children's book in memory of his son Tom, who sadly died in 2004. Picture: Courtesy of Richard Barr

Richard Barr has released a children's book in memory of his son Tom, who sadly died in 2004. Picture: Courtesy of Richard Barr

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A Letchworth author is taking on a London to Mount Everest motorcycle challenge in memory of his son Tom, who died when he was just seven.

Richard Barr has written a children's book with proceeds going to the Down's Syndrome Association and Woolgrove School in Letchworth. Picture: Emily BarrRichard Barr has written a children's book with proceeds going to the Down's Syndrome Association and Woolgrove School in Letchworth. Picture: Emily Barr

Richard ‘Dickie’ Barr will set off on the 10,000-mile ride from the Ace Café in London for his 14th challenge in aid of the Down’s Syndrome Association and Woolgrove School, Special Needs Academy in Letchworth.

Speaking on World Down Syndrome Day, he told the Comet: “The inspiration for my various challenges goes way back to 14 years ago when our son Tom died in 2004. He was seven years old and died at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

“Since his death every year I’ve raised money for the Down’s Syndrome Association and the Woolgrove School where he attended.”

The challenge – which will begin on what would have been Tom’s 22nd birthday on April 20 – has so far raised £736 of the £5,000 target.

Richard's son Tom Barr sadly passed away at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2004. Picture: Courtesy of Richard BarrRichard's son Tom Barr sadly passed away at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2004. Picture: Courtesy of Richard Barr

Tom’s death inspired Richard to pen a children’s book, You Can Do It Tom Mouse – illustrated by Hatfield-based Joanna Scott – with proceeds also going to both causes.

The book follows Tom Mouse, who follows his explorer grandad’s example and sets off on adventures where he meets characters such as a disco-dancing yeti and a snowboarding snow leopard.

“Tom was the inspiration for the book,” Richard continued. “Over the years I’ve been going on these adventures and raising money – about two years ago I started thinking about writing a children’s book but never had the time.

“I came out of my job in early retirement in 2017, so I’ve been able to focus on things that are more important to me. The story is about knowing that, with support from family and friends, you can take on any challenge.

You Can Do It Tom Mouse was inspired by Richard Barr's son Tom, who sadly died aged seven. Picture: Richard BarrYou Can Do It Tom Mouse was inspired by Richard Barr's son Tom, who sadly died aged seven. Picture: Richard Barr

“I did my first school visit at Woolgrove last Monday – I hope the session helped to inspire them to be able to take on challenges.”

The school created a Tom Barr Award, which each year goes to the happiest child in school.

Previously, Richard has completed motorcycle trips from Land’s End to John O’Groats and through India. He has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, taken on the Three Peaks Challenge in the UK, and dog-sledded across Lapland in six days.

He has raised more than £55,000 in the last 12 years for his two causes.

Professional illustrator Joanna Scott helped Richard Barr bring the characters to life. Picture: Joanna ScottProfessional illustrator Joanna Scott helped Richard Barr bring the characters to life. Picture: Joanna Scott

Richard will be holding an all-day book signing at Waterstones in Hitchin on Saturday, March 30.

You Can Do It Tom Mouse is also available at David’s Bookshop in Letchworth. To find out more about the book, go to www.tommouse.co.uk and to donate to the cause go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/richardbarr.

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