Charity pioneer, 81, back on bike for new generation of battlers

Charity pioneer Ted Bartlett may be 81 but age is certainly not slowing him down.

Mr Bartlett, who first rode a bicycle when he was five, had not ridden one for 20 years when he started again recently to support a cause that has been close to his heart for many decades.

The octogenarian has not only come out of retirement but has climbed back on a push bike to help a new generation of homeless youth.

And he is encouraging others to do the same.

Mr Bartlett started the nation's first family debt counselling service in the '70s and Wollongong City Mission in the '80s.

He recently bought himself a new bicycle and started training for next month's 40-kilometre Ride Around The Lake in Wollongong.

Despite having osteoarthritis in the knees and crashing once during practice when the chain came off, he is no longer worried about whether or not he can do the 40 kilometres around the lake or the 10-kilometre option.

His confidence grew when he did a 58-kilometre training ride recently and he is now not concerned about the 40-kilometre Ride Around the Lake route on May 3.

"I really want to do this ride because I've seen over the past few decades how giving homeless youth a helping hand can have a positive and lasting effect," he said.

More than 500 people took part last year and this year, Mr Bartlett's son, Paul Bartlett, is hoping 750 members of the Illawarra community join the cause and ride alongside his father and three generations of the Bartlett family.

Granddaughter Sophie Bartlett is joining her father and grandfather.

The massive bike ride is the annual fund-raiser for Lighthouse Youth Services, which provides training and housing for disadvantaged young people at its facility in Yallah, south of Wollongong.

"I've sat with homeless, scared, lonely young people all my life and tried to help them make good decisions," Mr Bartlett said.

"To see them years later, living big, fulfilled lives is truly amazing. I may not make the whole 40 kilometres ... but I'm going to have a good go."

In doing so, he will also be supporting the work of his grandson, Jordan Bartlett, who is carrying on his grandfather and father's legacy of helping the homeless and disadvantaged youth.

Jordan's father, Paul, is the chaplain at Lighthouse, which oversees the program.

It is also a case of coming full circle for the 81-year-old Mr Bartlett who was involved in plenty of creative fund-raising when at the helm of Wollongong City Mission, a charity that eventually merged with a number of organisations to become Mission Australia.

He remembers one event in the 1990s that created headlines when he convinced wealthy businessmen and politicians to take part in a Great Pole Sit on Wollongong Beach.

Illawarra leaders sat on top of the poles overnight and dropped buckets down to collect money from onlookers for the homeless.

Anyone interested in joining Mr Bartlett and three generations of his family as they ride around the lake on May 3 can register online at ridearoundthelake.com.au or call Lighthouse on 4229 9744 for more information.

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