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Riding to raise funds, awareness for Dementia Australia despite the odds

David Batterham could just about see the finish line of his 2,000-kilometre charity bike ride when he received the devastating news his brother had been killed in a bicycle accident in Far North Queensland.

But family tragedy, floods, detours, long days, sunburn and exhaustion couldn't dent the 57-year-old's determination to keep pedalling.

It was something he had to finish for his mum, who lives with dementia.

"She doesn't know who I am," Mr Batterham said.

"Mum did so much for us when we were kids, and I'd do anything for my mum."

'Dementia doesn't discriminate'

Mr Batterham's ride to raise awareness and funds for Dementia Australia set off from the NSW Riverina town of Griffith on October 1.

Camping in a light tent during a huge rain event through New South Wales Central West, Mr Batterham said at times he felt there was more rain in the tent than outside.

"I was told from the start, 'Don't do it because it's going to rain', and I said, 'When is the perfect time?'" he said.

This was Mr Batterham's second ride raising funds and awareness for Dementia Australia.

Last year, he rode from Goondiwindi to Charleville and back to raise awareness of the disease, something he admits he didn't know much about until his mother's diagnosis.

"What I found was that dementia doesn't discriminate," Mr Batterham said.

"And it didn't matter what town I went into, I was hearing so many stories of how families and people have suffered, and, so I decided I was just going to keep doing this."

Getting accurate diagnoses earlier

Dementia Australia's executive director of services, Leanne Emerson, said almost half a million people across Australia were living with dementia.

"There's never enough funding available to be able to ensure that we can reach as many of those people as possible," Ms Emerson said.

"Raising funds in the way David has is really kind of critical in helping us to do that."

Ms Emerson said demand for Dementia Australia's counselling services was increasing, which she attributed to the ageing population and improvements in diagnosis.

Despite the strain on services, she said it was a good sign people were reaching out for support.

"More and more people are now getting an accurate diagnosis earlier," she said.

"It means that people aren't waiting and trying to cope alone."

Ride opportunity to share stories

The people and the stories along the way are what Mr Batterham will always remember.

"I came across an elderly lady, she was driving a motor home and she'd been diagnosed with dementia," he said.

 "She was quite happy to talk about it, and she said this was her last trip in her motor home because she couldn't do it again after this one."

Then there was the 84-year-old owner of a caravan park.

"You wouldn't pick him for 84. He was an absolute larrikin," Mr Batterham said.

"It was his daughter that got in touch with my son and said that he'd been diagnosed with dementia. And I met a lady in another town serving people in a supermarket, and she'd been diagnosed.

"It's just everywhere."

Mr Batterham recalled one of his funniest moments happened when he was heckled by an elderly man in a mobility scooter going up a hill.

"He was saying, 'Come on!'" Mr Battherham said.

"So we had a race going up a hill, and I was the one that was absolutely knackered by the time we got to the top."

Remembering his brother

Mr Battherham was meant to wrap up the charity ride on November 22. 

But before he could finish, he had to pause and say a final goodbye to his brother.

The weather made getting home to family difficult.

Stranded by floodwaters at Inverell in New South Wales, it took a helicopter to Goondiwindi and then a plane to Cairns for Mr Batterham to make it for his brother Greg's funeral.

He finally rode past the finish line in Goondiwindi on November 11, exhausted and sunburnt but happy to be home.

In the end, it took six weeks instead of three to finish the ride, with Mr Batterham raising $8,500 for Dementia Australia.

He is already planning his next charity ride from Goondiwindi to Mount Isa, where his brother Greg worked.

"I know Greg would've wanted me to finish it because he was such a bloody character," Mr Batterham said.

"People say it's just my shadow and myself, but I know now that the shadow's my brother. He's beside me on the ride now."

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