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Stephen saddles up for Tesco’s National Charity Partnership

A Tesco colleague who battled back from TWO vital heart operations is gearing-up to cycle around 1000miles across the UK.

Stephen McKeown from Dromore, Co. Down is taking on the expedition to raise money for the supermarket’s National Charity Partnership with Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

To prepare for ‘The Ticker Tour’ Challenge – which takes in all of the home nations - the 50-year-old has been cycling almost 75 miles a week to and from his work at the Tesco Extra at Bridgewater Park, Banbridge.

Stephen – who has already completed another 500 mile charity cycle across his native Northern Ireland – said: “I've told everyone it will be my last charity cycle tour. That said I’m really excited at the prospect of a new challenge and promoting the work of the National Charity Partnership.”

Diabetes UK, the BHF and Tesco are working together to raise funds to help millions of people to eat better and be more active. Having Type 2 diabetes can double a person’s risk of developing heart and circulatory disease, along with an increased risk of other complications. But a healthy lifestyle can play an important part in preventing or delaying both conditions.

A keen cyclist Stephen first found out about his heart problems after he felt a niggling pain in his chest whilst riding on his bike in 2012.

And after undergoing surgery, Stephen made a full recovery and the brave dad-of-one went on to complete a 500-mile cycle around Northern Ireland in aid of the Children's Heartbeat Trust.

Unfortunately a while after he wound-up back in hospital with further heart problems and had more surgery in 2015.That came as a shock to Stephen.

He said: “My doctor has given me the all clear, however it has been explained that I should take it easy on this ride.

“I cycle a 24mile round trip to the store three days a week plus an occasional 15 mile jaunt round the roads near my home once a week.

“On top of that I work on the trollies for Tesco and that’s the best job in the place as it keeps my heart active.”

He has also been backed by the encouragement of colleagues, friends and family.

He said: “The support has really helped me through. It really has been incredible. My family in particular have been brilliant.”

Throughout his bid Stephen has received fantastic backing from Tesco colleagues.

He said: “I joined Tesco shortly after my surgery and I’ve been well looked after from day one – which is something I will always be grateful for."

Fionnuala Savage, Northern Ireland fundraising manager for the National Charity Partnership commented: “Stephen’s determination to overcome the physical setbacks he has faced from living with heart disease is inspiring. It’s amazing that he’s chosen to fundraise to help others avoid going through the same thing.

“Thanks to people like Stephen the National Charity Partnership is able to fund projects in Northern Ireland within Belfast and Londonderry/Derry and Strabane that will help to inspire whole communities to set achievable lifestyle goals, to boost their health and wellbeing.”

Stephen’s journey begins in Wales before heading south and through the Cotswolds to Cambridge.

He then turns north through the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Pennines and onto Edinburgh for a well-earned rest day before turning west to Cairnryan on the west coast of Scotland and back to Nothern Ireland.

Back in Belfast he will head through Lisburn, Hillsborough, Downpatrick and on to Newcastle. The final day will be from Newcastle to the finish at the Tesco Bridgewater Extra in Banbridge on Friday 8th July.

Tesco is committed to raising £30 million over three years for the National Charity Partnership, which formed in January 2015. Earlier this year it was revealed Tesco colleagues and customers had raised £10 million for the National Charity Partnership – with £324,000 of that coming from stores and customers in Northern Ireland.

Stephen is now looking to source further sponsorship to boost his bid.

To sponsor him and learn more about the challenge, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/TickerTour-2016