Gym owner Kev Bower never shirks a tough challenge … and now he’s helping a friend to top more than £40,000 for a charity very close to their hearts.

Richard Shaw, 45, of Dalton – known as Benny – has been so inspired by rugby league legend Rob Burrow’s battle with Motor Neurone Disease that he’s already raised £34,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association charity, including doing a 101-mile non-stop trek around all the West Yorkshire rugby league club grounds.

Kev, 41, who owns the Northern Fitness Gym in Linthwaite, has done a previous massive charity challenge with long-time friend Ryan Whitaker whose brother, Shane, of Quarmby, died from Motor Neurone Disease in September 2022, aged 53. Shane had been a player and coach at Lindley Swifts rugby league club for many years.

Gym member Josh Mashiter, 38, a self-employed gas engineer from Slaithwaite, was up for doing an ultra-tough event so the three of them are to ride 1,700 miles from southern Spain through France and into Italy in just three weeks in the scorching Mediterranean summer heat. There is no support team … just the three of them.


Kev Bower (right) with Richard Shaw (centre) and Josh Mashiter


Richard said: “The mental and physical challenge facing us is huge but it’s also temporary. Motor neurone disease is permanent and there is no cure.

“MND takes every physical ability from its sufferers, it robs them of any quality of life, leaving them wheelchair bound and, in many cases, incapable of communication before cutting their lives short. Most people with MND have a life expectancy of only three to five years after diagnosis.

“Each member of our team knows or has lost someone to MND. We’ve become inspired by the plight of Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield who, above all else, have set an example of friendship like no other.

“So we want to contribute but need people’s support in an effort to banish this horrible disease and prevent more suffering for families around Yorkshire and beyond.”

Kev and four members from Northern Fitness Gym in Linthwaite – including Ryan Whitaker – ran 315 miles on foot in under 13 days around the island of Fiji in 2022 to raise money towards the fund to send seven-year-old Holmfirth girl Eden Smith to the USA for specialist cancer treatment. The gym had set itself a goal of raising £50,000 for Eden in six months and totally smashed the target by raising £74,000.

Kev, who had cycled around New Zealand’s north island in 2019, says the Mediterranean bike challenge will also be tough but in a different way.


Kev Bower


He said: “It takes it out of the thumbs, upper back and neck and then there’s always the potential for heat exhaustion with temperatures well over 30°C and spending too long in the saddle sure can take its toll. We’ll need to be up and off every day by 6am.

“Hopefully it won’t be quite so much trauma on the legs and feet with blisters a big problem when we were in Fiji but we’ll be cycling an average 80 miles a day – some days it’s over 100 miles – and it’ll take its toll. It’s going to really test us both mentally and physically.”

The cycle trek begins in Malaga on June 30 and follows a mainly coastal route round the Mediterranean taking in Alicante, Valencia, Barcelona, Marseille, Nice and Pisa before finishing outside the Colosseum in Rome.

The riders have paid for their flights and hotel stays en route so every penny in sponsorship goes to the charity.

Kev said: “Benny has done a magnificent job to raise £34,000 already and I thought it would be great to push it over £40,000 and hopefully the bike ride will do that.”

To support the team go to their JustGiving page HERE.

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.