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George is the inspiration for canoe challenge
A FATHER is embarking on a 100-mile canoe race to raise money for his disabled son.
Graham Cooke is competing in the Cheshire Ring Canoe Race, a gruelling contest that takes in seven canals, 92 locks and three tunnels.
Graham, aged 44, from Woolston, canoes as a hobby but this will be the first time he has paddled such a distance.
He has set himself the challenge for son George who has profound learning difficulties. George is 11 but has the mental age of a toddler and cannot speak, which means he regularly uses play schemes run by the Warrington Association for Special Children (WASC), the beneficiary of Graham’s efforts.
George attends the play schemes with trained staff to give Graham and wife Louise, aged 42, who have been married for 18 years, a break.
Graham says he hopes his fundraising efforts will allow George to continue using the service.
“Mentally, George is not much more than a toddler,” he said.
“He can’t speak and has no sense of danger – basically like an 18-month-old baby in a 12-year-old’s body.
“WASC runs these schemes for children with complex difficulties and it means we can have a bit of a break and know George is somewhere safe with people who know what they are doing.
“He loves going there and it enriches his life.”
Graham has been canoeing three times a week on the Bridgewater canal in preparation for the race this Saturday and he is determined to finish even though it could take 24 hours.
He will be expected to consume 12,000 calories, an equivalent of around 60 chocolate bars, to keep up his energy levels for the race.
Graham added: “You should see the look on George’s face when he knows he’s going to a play scheme.
“He only knows one word and that’s excited.
“My motivation for finishing the race will be just how excited it will make George.”
To donate money for the WASC visit everyclick.com/wascring. More information about the Cheshire Ring Race is also be available at the site.