Friday, 24 May 2019

Film-maker shoots high

Film-maker shoots high

A FILM-MAKER is planning to cycle 6,000 miles across Europe and complete 60 skydives along the way for charity.

Sam Clarke, 31, will be raising money to help people like him who suffer from Alport Syndrome, a degenerative genetic disease.

He has left his job with Henley video production agency The Creative in order to take on the challenge, which he has named “Fighting Failure” and expects to take six months.

Mr Clarke will set off from Henley market place at 10am tomorrow (Saturday), cycling to Dover to take the ferry to Calais.

From there he will ride to Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Wroclaw, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Zagreb, Venice, Zurich and Paris before catching a train to Madrid and then cycling home.

He will stay in each city to undertake the skydives at local airfields, which he is qualified to do without an instructor. He will film each jump as well as highlights from his time on the road.

Mr Clarke hopes to raise more than £20,000 for Alport UK, which provides support and advice for people suffering from Alport Syndrome. The condition causes tissue in the kidneys, eyes and ears to slowly degrade.

Mr Clarke, who was diagnosed when he was two, has been told his kidneys are likely to fail within the next year and he will need either a transplant or regular dialysis.

His consultant has warned him that the challenge could make his condition worse but he says he will take precautions such as ensuring he stays hydrated and pacing himself.

Mr Clarke will ride up to 80km a day several days a week while carrying about 20kg of food, drink and his maintenance equipment. He will not have a support vehicle but friends will fly out to meet him at various points.

He has paid for the trip from his savings and will camp or stay in hostels or with host families to reduce his outgoings.

He is being sponsored by his former employer as well as AW Cycles, of Caversham, and several overseas production companies.

He will post regular video and blog updates online during the ride and plans to make a feature-length documentary afterwards.

Mr Clarke said: “I’m terrified and excited at the same time. It certainly ticks a lot of boxes for me as I’d always wanted to do something for charity and never really knew who or what to support.

“Alport UK is a small charity and the money I raise will help children affected by the disease to get into sport or stage their own fund-raising challenge, which is perfect for me.”

Mr Clarke, who lives in Wallingford, grew up in Reading with his parents Janice and Mike and older brother Matthew and after school completed a carpentry apprenticeship before realising he wanted to be a film-maker.

He finished a degree in the subject at Solent University in Southampton in 2013 then moved to Henley to work for The Creative.

During this time he travelled around Asia filming people undertaking charity challenges and also filmed Glastonbury Festival twice.

Alport Syndrome runs in his family and also affects his uncle Terry Sopp, from Woodcote. He had to wear hearing aids from the age of 15 and more recently his eyesight has started to deteriorate due to problems with his retinas.

Mr Clarke said: “I’ll happily admit that I’ve been quite a worrier all my life and I’ve had some low moments because of this disease.

“I had a cataract removed when I was 18 and failed my first driving test due to vision problems so in some ways it has held me back.

“I know that once my kidneys decline I will become a lot more lethargic but I’ve made my entire life about turning negatives into positives and this is another example of that.”

He came up with the idea for the challenge while taking a skydiving course in Madrid last year. He decided to combine this with his love of cycling.

Mr Clarke said: “I messaged my brother to ask what he thought and he said, ‘yeah, just do it — why not?’

“I sat down over Christmas to start planning it and when I could see it was feasible I decided there and then to go ahead.

“I gave my boss plenty of warning that I would be leaving and once I’d left I was able to go full speed ahead with the preparation.

“The company was very supportive and has always been very understanding about my condition and we’ve left the door open for more work in the future.

“I’ve always been into mountain biking and grew up digging jumps in woodlands with my mates but endurance cycling isn’t really my forte. This will be quite a challenge as I’m more used to doing it with short bursts of energy so I’ve had to get fit.

“I’m feeling pretty good, although I’m a bit worried about the weather and how my kidneys are going to cope with that amount of exercise. I’ll be seeing consultants en route to see how I’m holding up.”

Mr Clarke will post regular updates to his blog, which is called Scrap The Mask because he likes to be open about his condition.

He said: “It’s about accepting that I have this problem but also being clear what I’m going to do about it.

“I’ve always had a burning desire to raise awareness of Alport Syndrome because it’s such a life-altering disease that almost nobody knows about. It affects thousands of people but doesn’t get any publicity and I want to change that.

“The doctor told me my kidneys were near to failure shortly after I came up with the idea and that really spurred me on to just do it.

“I can’t bring myself to just sit around editing footage of other people’s adventures while my own body is deteriorating. I’ve got to get out there and do something helpful.

“I feel pretty good physically for now and although a great deal will depend on what happens while I’m out there I’m pretty confident that everything will be fine. Everyone has been very encouraging and amazingly supportive.”

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