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Jess Undertakes The One Show’s Rickshaw Challenge

18.11.2014

Team Rickshaw 2014 member Jess with Matt Baker  Alex Jonesweb smallTresham student, Jess Davies’, face may seem familiar after her amazing achievement last week as part of the BBC Children in Need’s Team Rickshaw which saw Jess and the team face the harsh November weather cycling from Manchester to Walford.

Jess, 16 from Kettering, was part a team of five young people together with the One Show’s Matt Baker and Alex Jones who raised an extraordinary total of £2.3m for this year’s Children in Need Appeal. Jess was selected for the challenge following her involvement with Dwarf Sport Association (DSA), a project funded by BBC Children in Need.

Now in its fourth year the team smashed their expectations with a fantastic total. Beginning at the BBC’s Media City near Manchester, the rickshaw undertook the 450 mile ‘Salford to Walford’ journey across England, finishing live at the iconic EastEnders set during the BBC Children in Need appeal on Friday 14th November.

Jess, has achondroplasia dwarfism and subsequently faces issues on a daily basis. People often stare at her and make rude comments, which have left her with confidence issues and low self-esteem.  Since she was just one year old Jess has been attending the DSA, which promotes sport for people of restricted growth, enabling them to compete in activities they otherwise might not be able to. Given the chance Jess proved herself as multi-talented sportswoman, winning medals in running, swimming, shot-put and discus.

Jess studies the BTEC Level 1 in Vocational Studies at Tresham College of Further and Higher Education’s Kettering campus which develops skills and knowledge through a range of units covering areas such as job opportunities, exercise, customer service, healthy eating and understanding business.

In a first for 2014, in addition to pedalling the rickshaw the young riders gave speeches to an audience, talking about their motivations for the challenge and their own personal journeys.  A daunting challenge for anyone, it called upon the team – aged from 16 to 20 – to use all of their confidence and courage, addressing crowds at some surprise high-profile locations. Jess’ speech was broadcast on Wednesday 12th November after she visited the stars and audience of Strictly Come Dancing to shed light on her experiences with BBC Children in Need and the Dwarf Sports Association.

Tess Daly welcomes Team Rickshaw's Jess to the Strictly stage (1)web smallSpeaking after her speech, Jess said: “The location for the speech was kept a secret until the morning it happened. It was definitely a surprise, and while I was obviously excited to be going, it did make my nerves worse. Thankfully I studied drama, which has helped me with public speaking, so I think it helped pay off.  It was all a bit of a blur, but I’m definitely happy with the results. We also got to meet some of the Strictly contestants, who were all lovely. Everyone was really supportive.”

Tess Daly added: “It was an absolute pleasure for all of us to welcome Jess to the stage; her speech was so powerful that you could hear a pin drop in the studio. It probably seemed daunting at the time, but I’m sure that’s nothing compared to what the team are feeling for the rest of the challenge! We will be cheering on Jess and the rest of Team Rickshaw as they continue their journey, and are wishing them lots of luck with their challenge. Here’s hoping it will bring in more of the much-needed donations for BBC Children in Need.”

Speaking of the challenge, Jess said: “The DSA has really helped increase my confidence and has given me the chance to prove myself as an athlete. Having joined when I was so young I’ve made some great friends through the project it feels like a bit of a family. I’m taking on the Rickshaw Challenge for two main reasons; firstly to help give something back to BBC Children in Need. By funding the DSA it’s really had such a positive benefit on me, so it’s nice to have the chance to return the favour! Secondly, I’m keen to reduce the stigma attached to dwarfism. Little people aren’t any less competent than anyone else and I’m looking forward to proving that to the millions as Team Rickshaw takes to the road.”

The One Show host Matt Baker added before the challenge:  “It’s such a fantastic fundraiser, where people who’ve benefited from the charity first-hand can really give back, and this year we’ll be getting much more of an insight into their own stories, which brings opportunities and challenges of its own. Alex and I have both previously taken on the Rickshaw Challenge so we understand how tough it can be. We will support them every step of the way. ”

In addition, Alex Jones said: “The Rickshaw Challenge is always tough, but this time it will test the riders both physically and mentally with the addition of the speeches. From last year’s challenge, I can personally vouch that it’s a seriously tough journey and it’ll be even harder without support from the adult riders.  We’ve got a fantastic team though, so here’s hoping their sheer determination will get them through. We’re calling on everyone to show their support once more and help push Team Rickshaw to their most successful year yet!”

David Ramsden, BBC Children in Need Chief Executive, commented: “The One Show Rickshaw Challenge is very special event. At its heart is an amazing team of young people who help to unite the UK in making a real difference for young people.”

This year’s Team Rickshaw also included:

Matthew (16) from Swadlincote, Derbyshire. Aged ten Matthew suffered an accident that left him with cerebral palsy and quadraplegic dystonia. For two years he has been attending Cerebral Palsy Sport; a programme funded by BBC Children in Need which enables children with mobility impairments to take part in athletics.

Flo (17), from Powys, Mid Wales. Flo suffers from autoimmune liver disease, including primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), autoimmune hepatitis and colitis. Flo will most likely need a liver transplant in the future and, with her weak immune system, even a common cold could pose a severe problem, with the risk of further liver damage. Flo attended Talk, Tell, Transform; a group hosted by Children’s Liver Disease Foundation and funded by BBC Children In Need, that helps young people with liver disease to share their story and deal with the issues they face.

Carolina (18), from Tottenham, London. Aged 14 Carolina lost her older brother to a rare type of cancer. Prior to his passing, Carolina was introduced to Noah’s Ark children’s hospice where she attended a sibling group to help young people with relatives facing terminal illnesses.

Alex (20) from Misbourne Valley, Buckinghamshire. Alex suffers from a rare skin condition called Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) meaning his skin is hypersensitive to UV light and unable to undo the damage it does to his skin. Just minutes of exposure can lead to a serious risk of skin cancer, even on an overcast day. Since he was six, Alex has attended Owl Patrol, a camp for young people with XP funded by money raised from BBC Children in Need.

In previous years, the Rickshaw Challenge has raised over £5 million for BBC Children in Need, with each and every penny going to projects supporting disadvantaged children and young people right here in the UK.

One Show viewers folllowed Team Rickshaw’s progress each day, and updates were available online at bbc.co.uk/pudsey and on Twitter via #TeamRickshaw.

People can still donate by visiting http://bit.ly/CiNTresham

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