Caring Wrexham staff drive appeal to honour F1 racing hero

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Big hearted staff at a care home in Wrexham have been helping drive forward a fund raising appeal honouring Grand Prix racing hero Tom Pryce.

The energetic team of carers and friends of Pendine Park’s Hillbury House Care Home used pedal power to get behind the £50,000 appeal to erect a statue in memory of the late Formula One ace and inspire young people to follow their dream just like he did.

He was born at the former Trevalyn Maternity Hospital, Rossett, and well known in the Wrexham area where he had many friends. Tom, the son of a policeman and a nurse, spent his early life living in the Hightown area of the town before moving to the nearby village of Brymbo

A website, a Facebook page and a Go Fund Me page https://www.gofundme.com/tom-pryce-appeal are live so supporters can make donations.

Numerous money-spinning activities are also planned, of which the sponsored pedal was one of the first.

Over 24 hours volunteers at the home in Hillbury Road committed to clocking up a combined total of at least 200 miles via the continuous pedal on an electric exercise bike.

Enrichment and activities coordinator Gerry Humphreys said there was immense enthusiasm among staff and residents to raise as much as possible.

She said: “Tom Pryce is a local hero who tragically died when he was right on the brink of achieving what could have been legendary status in his sport.

“But, after starting out as a tractor mechanic, he still achieved his dream against the odds to be a Formula One racing driver and that is what this fundraising appeal is really about – encouraging young people to realise that if they work at it they too can achieve their dreams no matter how impossible they may seem.”

Pryce – the only Welsh driver ever to have won a Formula One race – was killed, along with safety marshall Frederik Jansen van Vuuren, in a high speed collision at the 1977 South African Grand Prix in Kyalami.

A friend of James Hunt and Nikki Lauda, he had been widely heralded as having the potential to achieve legendary status. Just two years earlier he won the Brands Hatch Race of Champions, a non-championship Formula One race, and he remains the only Welshman to have led a Formula One World Championship Grand Prix: two laps of the 1975 British Grand Prix.

Among the leaders of the fundraising initiative is Pendine Park Care owner, Mario Kreft MBE, from Denbigh, who was thrilled with the strength of support it got from staff at Hillbury.

He said: “The idea that people really can achieve their dreams is something we all cling to. That’s why I think this appeal has so touched people’s hearts.

“Tom was much loved in North Wales and many of his friends from his childhood and youth still live in Denbigh and Wrexham. They know what a determined character he was, determined to achieve his long held ambition.

“That’s why the strap line of the campaign, #whatsyourdream, is perfect because Tom went from being an apprentice tractor mechanic in a small community to Formula One racing and worldwide recognition in a very short space of time. He is positive proof that no dream is beyond us.”

By creating the statue as a permanent memorial the appeal organisers hope to inspire future generations to follow their dreams as well.

A local sculptor, Nick Elphick, has been approached to make the interactive sculputure..

Classic car enthusiasts Mike Young and Gareth Williams were among friends of Hillbury Care Home who turned out to support the sponsored pedal and get in the saddle to help push up the mileage.

Mike whose father Dennis Young, aged 95, is a Hillbury resident, brought along his gleaming red MGB GT which he bought 19 years ago, stripped down and restored.

He said: “It is the same model of car as the first one Tom Pryce had, but mine is a different colour and has a soft top. His was a hard top.

“He is a local hero and the idea of erecting a piece of public art in his honour is a great one. When I heard the care home was organising a sponsored pedal to help the appeal I was delighted to offer to support it.

“Dad has been a resident at Hillbury for two years. It is a real community spirited place and I was happy to do something to help the team in return.”

Mike’s dad Dennis Young also made the headlines recently when he was among a number of British Second World War veterans to be awarded the Legion d’honneur by France.

Gareth Williams whose wife Michelle and daughter Emily are both care practitioners at Hillbury, also brought along his classic BMW 328 which was a 40th birthday gift.

Gareth said: “I’ve had it 22 years now and it’s still going strong. I was happy to bring it to support the team today.”

Gareth completed a couple of miles on the bike, while wife Michelle clocked up five miles and Emily – determined to beat mum – achieved seven miles.

Hillbury manager Cindy Clutton who also got on board with the fundraising exercise said: “We have not been short of volunteers. All the staff and even some of our more physically able residents are keen to do their bit. This is a great cause and we’re eager to help get it off to a good start.”

Hillbury resident John Lloyd, 89, got a big cheer for his pedalling stint, though he joked: “I’d rather be going up a few gears in one of those vintage cars. They are beauties, just my era!”

The idea for the statue was spurred by a Tom Pryce exhibition at Denbigh Museum, which is housed in his old school.

There is already a Tom Pryce mural celebrating his achievements in nearby Ruthin and a stretch of track at the Anglesey Circuit is named the Tom Pryce Straight in his honour.

For more information go to www.tompryce.co.uk or www.Facebook.com/TomPryceF1 and to make a contribution to the appeal fund go to https://www.gofundme.com/tom-pryce-appeal

Caption: Pendine Parks Hillbury held a sponsored pedal to raise funds towards the Tom Pryce appeal ; Pictured on the Bike is Gareth Williams with (From Left)  Cindy Clutton Hillbury Manager, Mike Young owner of the MG , care practitioner Michelle Williams and Gerry Humphreys, Pendine Park activities manager.