Cycling from Holland to Gibraltar to raise funds for Special Child charity

A triumphant Jelle Mars completing his 3,000 kilometre journey.
A triumphant Jelle Mars completing his 3,000 kilometre journey. / SPECIAL OLYMPICS GIBRALTAR
  • A 20-year-old student decided to cycle 3,000 kilometres to help more disabled children to be able to participate in sport

If the summer heat is making you wilt, spare a thought for Jelle Mars who has just cycled approximately 3,000 kilometres from his native Netherlands to Gibraltar to raise money for the charity Special Child.

Jelle arrived at lunchtime on Tuesday and was welcomed and escorted onto the Rock by local athletes and cyclists including former police officer Ian Howe, who accompanied him on the final stage from Estepona. He was exhausted but jubilant.

He had made friends last year with several of the Special Olympics Gibraltar football team when they were in the Netherlands for the Special Olympics European Football Tournament, so this was a very special reunion. After a photo shoot at Europa Point, a small reception was held to celebrate Jelle's impressive achievement.

Special Child is a children's charity which encourages disabled children into sport and that in turn often leads to them joining the ranks of Special Olympics athletes.

Andrew Ramage, the media spokesperson for Gibraltar Special Olympics, explains that the charity provides the children with sports facilities and sportswear to stimulate them into trying a sport. It is currently collaborating with foundations in five regions worldwide to provide children with sporting opportunities. Jelle has already raised over 2,400 euros in online donations and more are coming in.

It takes a very special person to undertake a challenge of this type. Jelle, who is a 20-year-old student and football coach, set off from Groningen, in the northern Netherlands, on 5 July on a second-hand bicycle. The longest ride he had done on that bike before then was 50 kilometres.

He stresses that he is not a professional cyclist, but he has completed other long trips before, such as returning to his home in the Netherlands from Paris and from Porto to Lisbon. The trip to Gibraltar, however, had been a very different proposition, involving cycling for around 150 kilometres every day.

Before setting off, in an interview with Dutch media Jelle admitted that he had not done any especially intensive training before embarking on his mammoth challenge, and said he had decided to attempt it because he is adventurous and it is "all about the journey". He succeeded. This was a very special trip and it will make many children very happy.