Founded in 2015, Leadership Challenges finds its roots in personal tragedy. In October 2009, Antonia, the daughter of Leadership Challenges founder, Jeffrey Thomas, lost her life after a short asthma attack.
Antonia’s death was followed by a huge outpouring of community support in her home town of Corsham in Wiltshire. At the same time, Asthma UK published a study which concluded that nearly half of asthma-related deaths could be avoided with better routine care.
In response to this immeasurable loss, a charity bike ride was organised to raise funds for Asthma UK and increase awareness of the condition, which the study deemed should be taken more seriously by doctors and patients.
In June 2010, on what would have been Antonia’s 11th birthday, 29 local cyclists pedalled the 174 miles from Corsham to Crickhowell, Wales, and back. Almost £50,000 was raised in the process, which was put towards specialist equipment and training for nurses based in Wiltshire.
ANTONIA’S RIDING CLUB
Following the event, the riders relived their adventures and realised that they could not let their experience fade; new friendships had grown, new fitness levels achieved, and vital community resources had been generated.
A new cycling club in Corsham was established, founded on the principles that had been forged on the road to Crickhowell: adventure used to develop fitness, strengthen communities, and raise funds and awareness for Asthma UK. The club was named Antonia’s Riders Club, in honour of the person who had inspired its creation.
THE RACE ACROSS AMERICA (RAAM)
Work for Asthma UK continued in 2014 when former Bath and England rugby legend, John Hall, formed the London Pride Spinhalers team, with Martyn Grant, Sir James Fuller, and David Shephard.
Captained by Hall, the cyclists took on the mighty Race Across America (RAAM). First conceived in 1982, the non-stop 3,000-mile race takes competitors across 12 states, from California to Maryland, and is considered the world’s toughest two-wheeled endurance event.
The Spinhalers’ success led to a larger team tackling the race the following year, coinciding with the Rugby World Cup 2015. Headed once again by John Hall, the Ruck and Rollers comprised eight ex-international rugby players, including former Scotland and British & Irish Lion, Rob Wainwright, and former Wales and Brive star, Alix Popham.
“It was just a phenomenal experience from start to finish. From general support staff to cooks, from trainers, to those pedalling the whole distance, everyone put in such an amazing effort.”
“It was all about teamwork and helping each other every inch of the way, and what a thing to have achieved together – cycling right across North America from west coast California to Maryland on the US eastern seaboard.”
Far more than the experience of a lifetime, cycling RAAM in 2014 and 2015 helped to raise over £140,000 for Asthma UK. It also prompted Jeffrey Thomas to establish a more lasting platform, on which his daughter’s legacy might flourish.
Leadership Challenges was born.