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A 30-strong team of cyclists from South Mimmsbased M25 DBFO company Connect Plus, and community friends, is taking on a tough cycling challenge in memory of their former Business Manager.

Barbara Gray, from Harpenden, a much-loved colleague of nearly 10 years, was just 69 when she passed away of uterine cancer at the end of 2016. She was supported in her final weeks by Berkhamsted-based The Hospice of St Francis, even meeting Dame Angela Rippon OBE who visited the Hospice for its AGM during her stay. 

In recognition of her huge contribution to the team, her work colleagues have chosen to support the charity this year in her memory.

The team is taking on a 330-mile cycle ride from Cologne in Germany to Lille in France, taking in Luxembourg and Belgium over the May bank holiday weekend (28 April – 1 May 2017).

Following a cycling outing to the Hospice, Tim Jones, former CEO, said: “We’re a close-knit team and Barbara was central to this in her capacity as Business Manager for the previous eight years.

“She was instrumental in setting up Connect Plus, taking our younger recruits under her wing and being a mentor to them. Personally, I have worked with her for more than 19 years so am acutely saddened by her loss.”

Jamie Wood, 29, from Kilburn, said: “Barbara was such a special lady. She was integral to our team and, endearingly, she felt like our ‘office godmother’”.

Chris Richardson, 41, from Aston Clinton, who has been at Connect Plus for nine years, said: “Barbara was always fun to work with. She had an amazing sense of humour, coupled with a good dose of sarcasm, and kept all the recent recruits on their toes!”

John Cass, 40, from St Albans, said: “My main memory of Barbara was that she was so happy and bubbly. She also had a great wealth of stories about our boss Tim which she used, with humour, to embarrass him at various company occasions!”

The team of 24 riders and six support staff are all part of the M25 community. It includes Highways England, Connect Plus Services and members of the supply chain group. The group has been training hard and as many as are able to get together every Tuesday.

Tim added: “As a group, we wanted to cycle to raise money in Barbara’s memory and what better charity than one that cared for her in her last weeks. This will be our fifth charity cycle ride and we’re hoping to beat previous years’ fundraising totals of £16,000 through the generosity of our suppliers, friends and families.”

Barbara’s family – husband Ron, sons Martin, from Studham, and Kevin, from Wheathampstead, with his wife Emma, and grandchildren Daisy, 12 and Rafe, seven – came to the Hospice to show their gratitude to Barbara’s work colleagues. They were delighted to receive a commemorative book with personal photos and messages from all the members of the Connect Plus team.

Kevin Gray, said: “Mum experienced wonderful care at the Hospice. She was admitted for respite care initially which helped give her strength so she was able to come home, where she wanted to be. The clinicians were fantastic and the whole family was looked after  so well – we even camped overnight and the staff arranged a special family birthday tea for our son Rafe who turned seven during mum’s stay!”

Carolyn Addison, Corporate Fundraising Manager at The Hospice of St Francis, added: “The fact that the Connect Plus guys respected their former colleague Barbara completely shone through following their cycle here and I am delighted they have chosen to support the Hospice in her memory.

“It’s a great example of a local company giving something back to an organisation that has benefitted one of its own. I wish them all the best of luck for their European lycra-adventure and hope everyone in their network will be extremely generous with their sponsorship!”

The Hospice of St Francis provides free care and support when it matters most for people facing life-limiting illnesses across Bucks and Herts and relies on voluntary donations for 80% of its more than £5 million running costs.

Follow the team’s progress on Twitter @CPServices_M25  and @M25Cycle and donate in Barbara’s memory to their Just Giving page here.