Raised thousands in memory of ‘inspiring’ brother and his aunt, Helen McCrory

An army officer has raised thousands of pounds for charity by cycling 2,100 kilometers from London to Madrid in memory of his ‘inspiring’ brother and his aunt, actress Helen McCrory.

Tom Yaxley, 32, is the brother of Hugo Yaxley and cousin of McCrory, who died of cancer in April 2021 at the age of 52.

Mr Yaxley has embarked on the cycle across Europe for Ride4Hugo, a series of fundraising events organized by friends and family who have raised over £115,000 for four charities.

The money has been raised for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA), Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA), the Place2Be charity for children’s mental health and the Sir Hubert Von Herkomer Arts Foundation, of which McCrory was a patron.

Mr Yaxley, from Staffordshire, told the PA news agency: “I consider it a very fitting tribute to Hugo’s legacy and what we have been able to achieve is tremendous.

Tom Yaxley and Amanda YaxleyTom Yaxley has been joined by his mother Amanda for parts of the 2100 kilometer cycle (Ride4Hugo/PA)

“I feel really lucky that we were able to do that for his legacy and (I’m) just incredibly grateful for the massive amounts of support, because nobody does anything alone.

“Whether it’s people sharing things on Facebook, Instagram, people donating — it’s not one person’s job to get to this point.”

Past Ride4Hugo charity projects have included a run from Bristol to London, a 100km cycle ride through Wiltshire and multiple sponsored walks and runs by friends and family.

The project began in memory of Hugo, who died in a car accident at the age of 20 in November 2020, and later honored McCrory after her death in April of last year.

Mr Yaxley explained that his brother was being kept alive by DSAA until his parents arrived and were able to say goodbye.

“They gave him the best fighting chance possible… And that meant a lot to them, it means a lot,” he said.

“DSAA has had about £30,000 (from Ride4Hugo), and with the average cost of a mission of around £3,000, that’s 10 life-saving missions.

“From Hugo’s death, 10 lives have been saved or have certainly undergone life-changing interventions, even if just to have that feeling Mom and Dad could get.”

Hugo’s girlfriend was also in the car when it crashed and her life was saved by HIOWAA, which left her walking 8 miles for just eight months after suffering “horrific injuries”.

Mr Yaxley said his brother has “touched a lot of people by the way he did things”, including speaking about his own mental health journey and being a supporter of Place2Be, which provides mental health support to schools.

“He was a very big advocate for mental health,” he said.

“He gave a speech when he was 16 which was quite inspiring about his struggle and what he did which is almost unheard of – I have served in Afghanistan and Iran and I would rather serve there than stand for 350 or more from my peers and talk about my mental health.”

Mr. Yaxley’s bike took off from the National Theater in London on July 14, a venue Yaxley said was very special to his aunt.

“Hen used to love performing (there),” he explained.

“It meant a lot to her as a theater and gave her some of her best performances.”

He hopes to finish his bike on Saturday at the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain, where his younger brother had planned to attend university.

Quiz photo call – LondonMcCrory, a patron of Sir HVH Arts, died of cancer in April 2021 (Ian West/PA)

Mr Yaxley added that his aunt and Hugo were “kindred spirits”.

He said: “They were very kindred souls in the way they looked at the world… They moved on.

“They were very close on that side of life.”

He tied a small urn of his brother’s ashes to his bike as he cycled the Col du Tourmalet, one of the highest paved mountains in the French Pyrenees, as it was a ride the siblings were talking about doing together .

Averaging 200 miles a day, Mr Yaxley was often accompanied on his bike by his 59-year-old mother Amanda, who has done “a little bit each day” and even rode 202 kilometers on Wednesdays.

The actor and McCrory’s husband Damian Lewis tweeted his support for the couple: “Drive all the way to Madrid from the National Theater in London for Hugo and Helen…My sister and cousin. In this heat. Unbelievable.”

Mr. Yaxley and Mrs. Yaxley are also in the company of a friend from the military who is retraining as a physiotherapist and is able to provide “vital” support.

“It was challenging and brutal at times,” said Mr Yaxley.

“But to me this is a vessel through which people can donate to charities and that’s the way to look at it.

“Charity makes a huge difference in lives… And I’ve always been very convinced that it’s very important to me to give back.”

For more information about Ride4Hugo, visit ride4hugo.com.

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