Karen Millen OBE and team raise £46,314 for Teens Unite by completing Vietnam to Cambodia cycling challenge
Date: 9th-21st January 2013
Who: Group of twelve of the charity’s supporters including Teens Unite founders Karen Millen OBE and Debbie Pezzani.
What: The team cycled 500km (310 miles) from Vietnam to Cambodia.
The challenge began in the fast paced city of Ho Chi Minh, from where the group cycled on to visit the historic Cu Chi Tunnels. Having crossed the border into Cambodia, the team did many kilometers on quiet roads, through local village communities on the way to the capital Phnom Penh. The challenge ended up in Angkor Wat, where the group embarked on an in-depth cycle of the renowned complex of Angkor.
The challenge saw the twelve complete 7 days of cycling up to 96km a day in extremely hot and humid conditions.
Charity: Teens Unite was founded in 2007 by Debbie Pezzani and Karen Millen OBE and supports teenagers with cancer and other life limiting illnesses. The charity aims to help young people build on their self esteem and self confidence and reduce feelings of isolation by taking them on fun days out such as concerts, football matches and motivational workshops. Teens Unite have also just opened the first respite care centre for young people aged 13 – 24 in the UK.
What makes Teens Unite unique is that the charity supports teenagers through treatment and beyond, for as long as they need or want the support. Many teens find that once their treatment has stopped this is when they most need support as they have missed large amounts of school, work or university due to their treatment. This inevitably affects their friendships and self confidence. The main aim of the charity is to get the teens together as often as possible in a fun-filled environment; giving them the chance to talk to each other and gain strength from realising that they are not alone in their battle.
Teens Unite recently asked the teens they support to fill in a questionnaire about the charity. One teen said that “Teens Unite is my lifeline”. This powerful quote kept the team motivated throughout their challenge.
Why: Karen talked about her motivations behind the challenge:
“I decided to take on this challenge to coincide with a major development in the growth of the charity that Debbie and I set up 5 years ago. Teens Unite have recently opened the first specialist respite care centre for young people aged 13-24 in the UK. In order to raise funds and awareness so that all the teenagers we support are able to come for a break at the house I knew I would need to take on a big challenge. I am keen on keeping fit; however, it wasn’t until after I had agreed to cycle from Vietnam to Cambodia that I actually owned a bicycle! Watching the Olympics throughout the summer inspired me to do something I have never done before. I was worried about the heat and humidity but I have met so many inspirational teenagers through the charity that I knew I had to cross the finishing line for each and every one of them”.
Karen talks post challenge:
“This has been the most amazing experience. It was an incredible journey of extreme contrasts; a challenge that covered so many things both emotionally and physically. I think it gave us all a great sense of purpose and achievement. The combined total that this challenge has raised is fantastic – far more than we had hoped for, and the money will go a long way to help Teens Unite to help more teens”.
Debbie Pezzani talked about the challenge:
‘It was a trip of a lifetime. Not for the faint hearted but it was a challenge that I feel it enriched my life in many ways; culturally, historically and personally. It really made me appreciate all that we have having seen others who have so little that are so happy. We are delighted that the challenge has raised over £46,000, and we plan to spend a portion of the money working with the teens on a series of events in 2013. We will make up an events committee of teenagers who we spend a couple of months working with to put on a spectacular evening. The teens gain priceless experience working in a team, having meetings with businesses and securing deals. They also have the opportunity to experience an area that they may be considering as a future career option by choosing to work alongside the chefs, waiters, PR or marketing teams. These events have been a huge success in the past and the teens have reported how the experience not only gained them more confidence in themselves, but also in their future work prospects. The rest of the money will go into running the Teens Unite Respite Home and ensuring that all our teens have the opportunity to benefit from a respite break in 2013. A huge thank you must go to all the bikers and their sponsors for helping us to raise such a phenomenal amount’.