Honiton: Devon Freewheelers founder Dan’s pride at lifetime achievement award

Devon Freewheelers founder Daniel Roe-Lavery, from Honiton, has been celebrated as the Pride of Devon and honoured as an unsung hero with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Daniel, who has dedicated his life to the work of the vital blood bikes service since launching the charity in 2009, said he was ‘deeply humbled’ to be recognised as the Radio Exe 2020 winner of the Pride of Devon’s most prestigious award.

It was a bit of a shock to receive it and I am deeply humbled. It was not something I had expected…

Devon Freewheelers founder Daniel won the top award of the night, announced at the radio station’s virtual ceremony.

Daniel said: “I am truly appreciative of all the support from the people of Devon for this award.

“It was a bit of a shock to receive it and I am deeply humbled. It was not something I had expected.

“This award is recognition of what all the volunteers have achieved over the last eleven years.”

He added: “Devon Freewheelers is not my charity; Devon Freewheelers is the volunteers.

“It’s all about the volunteers and this is a true testament to their work as well.

“A massive thank you to everybody who thought of us, nominated us, voted for us. It’s a huge honour.”

Speaking at the live-streamed ceremony, Radio Exe presenter Jamie Taylor, said Daniel’s work with the Devon Freewheelers would always be worthy of an award.

Jamie said: “The lifetime achievement award is the Pride of Devon’s most prestigious award and over the years we have met people who have done so much for the county constantly, consistently and credibly.

“Our award winner would deserve an award any year, and in fact he’s a former Community Contribution Award winner.”

The Pride of Devon judges heard how demand for the Devon Freewheelers volunteer service had soared since the start of coronavirus pandemic in March.

Daniel said: “Since the pandemic started, from March, our services have gone through the roof whereby we have accepted pretty much any request.

“Prior to Covid it was pretty much blood biking and blood and donor products. When the pandemic began there was huge demand to help the elderly, who were isolated and who needed their medication picking up. We have been looking after the community in a whole host of ways.

“In addition to our blood bike services, we have been involved in swab testing for the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital since the outbreak of the virus.

“We have been proving those services seven days a week – and a lot of those services are supported by the volunteer network.”

Daniel added: “The blood bikes operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the whole year, and the service is manned entirely by volunteers.

“The volunteers provide their time to serve their community, transporting blood samples, blood to the air ambulance so they can facilitate transfusions at the scene of a critical incident.

“We transport breast milk to the neonatal units for the premature babies. We provide non-injury fall services to the elderly at home – a whole host of services that have developed from the earlier days of just blood biking.”

Nominating Daniel for the award was Caroline Retter, Devon Freewheelers blood bikes operations manager, who is based at the charity’s Honiton headquarters .

She said: “Because of Daniel’s vision and determination, Devon Freewheelers has helped save lives, helped thousands of patients and saved the NHS in Devon hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

Daniel founded Devon Freewheelers after he was inspired by the help of a blood bike stranger in Northern Ireland in 2005.

Daniel’s heavily-pregnant wife Shelley collapsed while visiting family, and was rushed to hospital by ambulance, where her life was saved by blood donations delivered to medics by a blood bike volunteer.

Daniel never forgot the blood bike volunteer who helped his family – and some four years later the Devon Freewheelers charity was founded by Daniel.

Devon Freewheelers Emergency Voluntary Service (also known as the Devon Blood Bikes), has served the people of Devon since 2009.

The charity, with its headquarters in Honiton, East Devon, is made up of a volunteer team of trained riders and drivers, call handlers and fundraisers – all dedicated to providing a 24/7, free, service supporting the NHS to deliver blood, medical samples for testing, medication and patient notes.

The service also transports medical equipment and tissue samples to other NHS establishments throughout Devon.

The volunteers deliver essential supplies to patients’ homes, donor breast milk to the county’s neonatal units and medical supplies and blood to the air ambulance service.

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