The first step in a very long journey for Byron Bay soccer player Sheldon Thomson was taken on Saturday when a fundraising event was held at the Byron Bay Recreation Ground.
The ‘rideforsmiles’ six-a-side tournament kick-started Sheldon’s driving ambition to ride a motorcycle through 10 African nations and into Europe later this year to raise awareness and donations for several worthy causes.
The tournament was run by the Byron Bay Football Club, and players from the club donated 25 pairs of boots, a number of shorts, soccer shirts and socks to help children in Ethiopia.
After a near-fatal road accident in 2007 when hit from behind by a semi-trailer, Sheldon was left with 12 fractured ribs, a lacerated liver, collapsed lung, five fractures in the back and a head injury.
But during his long recuperation the last thing on his mind was feeling sorry for himself – he focused on how lucky he was and how he may be able to help those less fortunate.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Africa, so I set myself a goal of riding a motorcycle through Africa and up into Europe and helping out in a small way along the way,” Sheldon said.
Combining his love of soccer and motorcycles, Sheldon plans to ride a Kawasaki KLR 650 more than 15,000km from South Africa all the way to Europe with mate Graeme Miller.
During their four-month trip, which will take place at the end of the year, the pair will distribute soccer gear to isolated communities in Ethiopia where he is also trying to get an inter-school competition up and running.
Sheldon is looking for schools here to establish sister-school relationships, as well as calling for support for Riders For Health, which provides access to vehicles for health care workers in parts of Africa.
He has already enlisted the support of the Northern NSW Football Federation, which is donating disused rep strips, and Sheldon has asked for donations of boots, uniforms and anything else that may assist from locals at the tournament today.
Sheldon said the Byron Bay Football Club had been fantastic in the support of his cause and his goal.
Sheldon’s website is rideforsmiles.com
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