Cyclists to ride across Europe to support Sunderland's Foundation of Light

A top eye surgeon and the boss at the UK's largest orthodontic laboratory are among dozens of cyclists gearing up to take part in a charity ride across Europe in aid of Sunderland AFC's official charity.

Tuesday, 12th June 2018, 11:18 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 10:35 am
Sean Thompson (left) and Maged Habib who are both taking part in the Foundation of Light charity bike ride.

Maged Habib, a consultant at Sunderland Eye Infirmary, met Sean Thompson, managing director at Ashford Orthodontics, when he performed surgery on him.

Sean had already completed several of the Foundation of the Light’s cycle challenges, riding a tandem with his wife Allison.

Sean then persuaded Maged to take part in last year’s ride from Poland to Prague, and Maged enjoyed the experience so much he is one of 30 riders taking part in this year’s challenge.

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SAFC legend Julio Arca, retired dentist Michael Oliver and former Echo editor Rob Lawson are among the other riders.

“This year’s ride is far more of a challenge than last year’s event, so we’ve been training hard,” said Sean.

It’s 250 miles from Dubrovnik to Split and we’ll be climbing more than 22,500ft – so it’s obviously all uphill.

“We’ve done a lot of our training in and around Sunderland and Seaham, and it’s hard to find hills high enough – so we’ve also had to go further afield.

The cyclists set off on Wednesday, flying from Newcastle to Dubrovnik, and then start the gruelling journey to Split the following day.

They arrive into the Croatian coastal town of Split four days later.

“We’ve been told we’ll be passing through some beautiful countryside, but I’m not sure whether we’ll be in a fit state to enjoy it,” said Maged, a consultant Ophthalmologist and Vitreo-retinal Surgeon at the Eye Infirmary since 2011.

Each cyclist is asked to raise £1,650 towards the cost of the ride, with all proceeds going toward the Foundation.

The ride is being supported by international building materials distributor Grafton Group plc, whose managing director Gavin Slark was born and brought up in Sunderland and logistics specialists OSE European.

Previous rides have been from Dublin to Sunderland; Pisa to Venice; Brussels to Paris and from the French Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean.

Ashford Orthodontics won both the Medium Business of the Year and Overall Business of the Year at last year’s Echo’s Portfolio Awards, and has since expanded further, now employing more than 50 people at its Southwick premises.

The Foundation of Light was established in 2001 and uses the power of football to involve, educate and inspire people of all ages and from all backgrounds to realise their potential.

Structurally and financially independent of Sunderland Football Club, the Foundation raises more than £4million every year to deliver its programmes.

To sponsor Sean, go to and search for Sean Thompson, Foundation of Light.’