Award has proved a heroic help for vital charity work
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Boosted by their deserved recognition last year as Highland heroes, a life-saving free medical service has gone from strength to strength.
"It was a real boon to us, becoming Charitable Organisation of the Year," said Ross Sharp, founder of Highland and Island Blood Bikes, "giving us a higher profile and winning us some vital extra support in our work."
HAIBB was celebrated by the charity community for the amazing job it has done since Ross came up with it in 2019, as couriers ferrying essential medical supplies and samples for no charge across the region and, when necessary, well beyond.
The team had notched up no fewer than 103,547 miles in the 10 months before the 2023 awards, completing no fewer than 1,243 critically important missions.
"That was then!" said Ross, as he reviewed the months since the awards.
"This year we have covered some 162,000 miles in making sure that these vital supplies get through to those who need them.
"Recognition of all the fantastic work the volunteers do certainly helped, because you have to remember the demand for their services is continuing to grow all the time.
"Winning that title was incredibly helpful as we rely on support from the public –with no funding from the UK or Scottish governments or the health service, the group relies solely on donations, grants and our own fundraising efforts.
"Mind you, I should point out that we are still looking for a main sponsor! That would be a massive boost for HAIBB and if any local business is interested in taking the role on they need only contact us at haibloodbikes.co.uk
"We would love to hear from them at any time!"
Mr Sharp, now in his 79th year, has lost none of the zeal he has felt since conceiving the idea of Blood Bikes back in 2016, when he noticed how vital blood bike services were further south. As a biker himself, he was soon turning an idea into life-enhancing reality.
"The team are still totally dedicated, under the fantastic leadership of chairman Graham Allan, vice chairman Alan Thomas and our NHS liaison Linda Brady."
The band of volunteers started with two motorbikes on loan from another Blood Bike group, but now boast their own growing fleet comprising six motorbikes, a van and car.
Covid was an early challenge for the blood bikers but they played their part in transporting Covid test kits and collecting samples to and from wherever needed. Today the focus is on the transportation of reagents, blood, spinal fluid, urine and faeces samples and urgent medical equipment.
The group works mainly from the Raigmore Hospital area in Inverness transporting essential items to other NHS establishments in the region but there are back up offices in Wick, Fort William and Oban, the network extending to more than 50 different health service locations including in Aberdeen, Elgin and even the Central Belt.
They work with other Blood Bike groups across the UK.