WATCH: Highland and Islands Blood Bikes named Charitable Organisation of the Year at Highland Heroes 2023
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A HIGHLAND charity couriering vital medical supplies and samples free of charge across the region was named Charitable Organisation of the Year at the Highland Heroes 2023 awards ceremony on Friday.
Highland and Islands Blood Bikes (HAIBB) has proved to be a huge asset to the region's residents – and the NHS – despite the branch just starting out in 2019.
The work and effort of the band of volunteers, who have covered 103,547 miles in all weathers in the past 10 months, was rewarded by voters and judges at the event which celebrates the heroes in our communities.
Chairman Graham Allan added: "We are ecstatic, we only started four years ago so from there o being here and winning an award , to wins this award means everything.
"It's all comes down to the hard work of the volunteers. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have a charity.
"It's incredible to see the wider support. To win this award means sows that we are out there and people are recognising and supporting what we are doing.
"This will hopefully give us even more visibility, and we'll keep on doing what we are doing, also because we enjoy it so much. It's giving something back, that's what it's all about."
HAIBB founder Ross Sharp (78) said: "It means so much to us, the Heroes award was excellent night and to have this award is amazing."
He said he loves what he does.
"We're absolutely dedicated. Our secretary Andrea Mackenzie left recently due to family commitments but she did an incredible job for the charity."
Mr Sharp regularly saw the blood bikers on the roads further south and wondered why the potentially life-line service was not in operation in the region.
Being a keen biker himself, Mr Sharp did not leave matters there and set about starting HAIBB.
He organised the very first meeting not too long before the Covid-19 outbreak and fundraising began in earnest.
Since then, HAIBB has gone from strength to strength even playing an important part itself during the pandemic despite the group still being in its infancy.
The band of volunteers started with two motorbikes on loan from another Blood Bike group but now boasts their own growing fleet comprising six motorbikes, a van and car.
With no funding from the UK or Scottish governments or the health service, the group relies solely on donations, grants and its own fundraising efforts.
Everyone in the charity is an unpaid volunteers which ensures that 100 per cent of the money that comes in goes to running the service.
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.
These days there are more likely to be transporting reagents, blood, spinal fluid, urine and faeces samples and urgent medical equipment to where they are required.
The group works mainly from the Raigmore Hospital area in Inverness transporting essential items to other NHS establishments in the region.
HAIBB's network has expanded to include 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 to provide a free service to the health service.
HAIBB is operational seven days a week from 6am to 8pm.