Daredevil Pat O’Riordan, 81, from Ferndown, can usually be found enjoying a few rounds of golf at her local club, playing badminton or sitting down for a game of Bridge with fellow University of the Third Age members. But on Saturday 16 May, the former health worker took to the skies strapped to the roof of an American Boeing Stearman biplane to help boost funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Pat, who reached speeds of up to 120mph after taking off from Compton Abbas Airfield, was spurred on by thoughts of her mother, Mai, who died with dementia aged 96, and an 80-strong crowd of friends and former work colleagues who turned out to support her. Sponsorship money is still coming in, but Pat hopes to raise around £3,500 for the charity.
Pat explained her reasons for undertaking the stunt in support of the UK’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK:
“My mum Mai died with dementia in 2004 at the age of 96. She was a real livewire but dementia destroyed the last years of her life. I also lost a cousin, Judy Chadwick, to dementia last year. She was 86. Sadly, the number of people with dementia will only increase as people live longer. We need earlier diagnosis and better treatments so we can add a quality of life to those extra years and that’s why I decided to support the work of Alzheimer’s Research UK.”
“I was in Cape Cod with my sister about a year ago where I tried parasailing. I was telling my neighbour about it when I returned and he mentioned a 93 year old man who wing walked at the air show in Bournemouth. He suggested that’s the sort of thing I could do for charity and the idea was born!
“It was the most glorious day but the wind was ferocious. Once I’d mounted the beast and I’d been strapped in, we bumped our way down the runway and I said ‘Ma, this is for you’. There was lots of ducking and diving and by the time we landed around 20 minutes later, I felt rather queasy. My friends told me I was looking a little fragile; it took me around eight hours to start feeling normal again! Needless to say I won’t be doing it again, but I’m delighted it’s helping to raise so much money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.”
Jodie Vaughan, Community Fundraising Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We can’t thank Pat enough for taking to the skies to support Alzheimer’s Research UK’s vital work; what an inspiration! The money she raises will help provide crucial resources for our scientists and fund many hours of pioneering research, which has the power to defeat dementia.
“There are 850,000 people across the UK living with dementia today, including over 8,600 people in Dorset. Some 225,000 people in the UK will develop dementia this year – that’s one every three minutes. Building on over 20 years of research, we are closer to finding a treatment for dementia than ever, and we rely on wonderful supporters like Pat to be able to fund our groundbreaking research.”