Cycling stars Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish back tragic helmet campaign
SPORTING stars have backed a father's plea for cyclists to wear helmets as his son lies in a coma after an accident.
Mark Smith, from Chapel St Leonards launched an appeal in last week's East Lindsey Target, bravely sharing his grief.
His 16-year-old son Ryan was cycling to work when he was involved in a crash with a van.
Despite his dad's disapproval he chose not to wear a helmet because of his hair.
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Mark Smith believes a helmet would have helped protect his son and has set out to tell his story to make sure no other parents have to share his heartache.
His campaign to get cyclists wearing helmets has quickly gained international attention through the media, as well as cycling heroes Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, along with Paralympic runner Richard Whitehead.
Ryan met Richard Whitehead when he was Paralympic ambassador for Skegness Grammar School and the support has touched the family.
Mark Smith said: "Richard Whitehead sent a good luck message and said he was running for Ryan on Saturday.
"We even got a get well from Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish supported the cause when commenting on our story.
"It means a lot that these names are behind us, if kids want to be cyclists they're going to aspire to be like their heroes, and their heroes wear helmets.
"This sort of positivity is pulling us all through. I'm trying to draw on something good out of such an awful event and if I can try and stop this happening to other families then I've got a focus."
Mark's story has featured in a host of national newspapers and has appeared on ITV show This Morning since the article in the Target last week.
Although momentum gathers, fighting his cause still takes second place for Mark behind caring for Ryan.
Being at his son's bedside for six weeks, Mark says he is learning a bit more about his behaviour.
"Last week was Ryan's worst, fighting a chest infection and tremors but we are trying to understand want he wants and by letting him rest he's under control now and settled beautifully."
While Ryan lay in Pilgrim Hospital, his friends collected his GCSE results for him and it was a proud moment when his four As, three Bs and one C were read out to him.
Drawing strength from watching his son battle his injuries, Mark Smith is encouraging people to back an e-petition to make cycling helmets a legal requirement.
This needs 100,000 signatures before April next year to be taken to Parliament.
"I will not settle until I've got the signatures.
"People don't like change but wearing helmets would stop even a lot of smaller injuries. £25 spent on protecting yourself would stop a lot of admissions into A&E."
To gather local support an event is being held in Chapel St Leonards on September 8. Mark is biking along the A52 to Pilgrim Hospital and inviting any cyclists to join him at 7am.
A football match follows at 1pm and a charity auction at 6pm.
The day aims to be fun for the family whilst raising money and awareness with more details available at www.eastlindseytarget.co.uk/ryansmith