A group of Manx Grand Prix competitors are reflecting on an almost 4,000-mile humanitarian mission to Romania, supported by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
Jim Hunter, Ian Pert and Ronnie Russell loaded a van with items much-needed in the country, including children’s clothing, toys and toiletries, and drove to Radauti and Lasi to make deliveries to charities.
Travelling under the banner Van Trip for Billy, the trio were fundraising to cover the cost of the journey and the Steam Packet Company lent its support by providing free transport between the Isle of Man and UK for the team and van.
The trip was inspired by TT legend Joey Dunlop, who regularly delivered essential provisions to orphanages in the Balkans, and run in memory of Island road racer Billy Redmayne, who died in a crash earlier this year.
Jim, Ian and Ronnie promised that any donated money left after meeting costs would be handed to the Billy Redmayne Memorial Fund, and it is hoped more than £4,500 will be presented to the fund.
Jim said: ‘We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received, which not only allowed us to cover the cost of travel and the items we were taking to Romania, but has also raised an amazing amount for the Billy Redmayne Memorial Fund, which we’re all delighted with.’
The trio met kind and friendly people throughout their journey in late October, but were deeply moved by the conditions encountered in some eastern European regions.
Ian said: ‘It made me smile and made me sad; smiles come as I think of the people we met, the things we saw and the places we visited, sadness comes when I think that people live in the conditions we saw. It's something that once you have experienced it then it never leaves you, and it never should.
‘I am pleased that three bike racers with the help of a few hundred other people managed to do something to help, but I know that we will do more, and I know that people will continue to help us.’
Ronnie added: ‘While we were handing out the food and clothing we saw how hard life can really be. I would like to say it was a selfless act on my behalf to go on this trip but at 61 I still don't think I have achieved that feat. I do know that with Jim and Ian, and all the support, we have done some good.’
Jim concluded: ‘To see the conditions that some people find themselves living in is really very harrowing and, predictably, leaves you feeling very lucky to have the type of lifestyle we all enjoy. Travelling through Romania, the Ukraine, Poland and parts of the former East Germany was such a journey of education, and we me met some truly wonderful people along the way.
‘We are extremely grateful for all the help we’ve had and would like to thank the Steam Packet Company for its support, which ensured the journey could go ahead and more money could be donated to the Billy Redmayne Memorial Fund.’
Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘This endeavour was put together by a small group who wanted to help people living in extreme poverty, and we were pleased to play a part in supporting their efforts.
‘Not only did the journey achieve its main aim of taking provisions to Romania, it was also a wonderful way to remember young Billy Redmayne just as Jim, Ian and Ronnie hoped. The fact they exceeded their fundraising target by so much and can donate such a tremendous amount to the Billy Redmayne Memorial Fund is another reminder of just how generous the Isle of Man community is.’
Photographs: Top - L-R Ian Pert, Jim Hunter & Ronnie Russell ahead of their trip. Bottom - Ian Pert unloads the van packed full of aid in Romania.