A father-of-two is determined to do all he can to help his severely disabled eight-year-old daughter.
Matilda, Joe Lees’ daughter, who is physically and mentally only nine-months-old has a condition that is currently undiagnosed but Joe said his wife, Yolanda, knew she was different to other babies.
“She never met any of the development milestones and when Yolanda took her to baby yoga she just wasn’t performing like the other kids,” he said.
“The doctors told her that she was just paranoid because she was a new mother but she knew there was something wrong.”
Joe, 32, will be cycling from Ipswich to Glasgow to raise money for the school Matilda attends.
Along the way, Joe will be visiting special schools – including St Francis School in Lincoln on Monday, June 19 for an assembly – to play his guitar to offer music to children with similar special needs to his daughter.
Joe will arrive in the city late on Sunday night with his team made up of Mark Kinlan, Luke Thresh, Dave Sawyer, and Adam Risby.
Jock, their teddy bear mascot, will be visiting each school with them.
Matilda was recognised as someone who required special education when she was three.
Joe gave up his job as the manager of a sports centre to become her full-time carer.
The father-of-two hopes that his bike ride will raise £15,000 for The Bridge School in Ipswich, where Matilda attends, to update their mini bus.
He said: “A trip to Lidl might seem normal to us but it’s a big deal to these children.
“Going out and doing even regular things is an invaluable learning experience for them.
“Matilda started going to Bridge School when she was four and she’s so much happier, she has a better life now.
“Matilda doesn’t communicate with words; she uses a series of sounds instead.
“Even though she has no-communication, she’s very well liked at school.
“She’s such a social person and everyone loves her. It’s her favourite place.
“We’ve been on holidays and she still loves going back to school.”
The Bridge School is for children with severe verbal, physical, and learning difficulties such as autism. The school was purpose built and has physiotherapy, soft play, and sensory rooms for all of their students.
Mr Odran Doran, head teacher for The Bridge School, said: “We’re delighted that Joe and his team are doing this to raise funds for our school. We’re desperately in need of a new mini bus as one of ours is currently on its last legs.
“Because his daughter comes to our school, Joe knows the real benefit and the real value of the bus because it exposes our students to new conditions so they can learn about these things and have those experiences for their futures”.
The event has been sponsored by Drain Tek, a Scottish company based in Glasgow. The company has given Joe a van, two drivers, and paid-for accommodation for the five people making the journey.
“I just kept calling companies hoping that one of them would offer some support,” said Joe.
“I’m so grateful to Drain Tek, without them this whole thing would have been a lot more difficult to pull off.”
If you’d like to support Joe’s journey, you can donate to his campaign here.