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Western Morning News
11:00 - 02 April 2008

The fifth and final Dartmoor ride for Autism is set to stick in people's minds for a very long time. For Allen Lewis is a man on a mission to spread awareness of the Son-Rise programme for autism and this year he has grand national hero Bob Champion MBE to start the ride and present medals."I'm choked. This means so much to me. We have people from all walks of life sponsoring me from 11 counties - it is truly inspiring that so many people are becoming aware of autism and the Son-Rise Programme which has completely changed my son Paul's life," says Allen who will be getting back in the saddle for the final fundraising event on one of Charles Upham's horses, after a nine year break.

The former showrider, huntsman (he has ridden with 49 packs during his career) and race rider has strong links with the racing world.

"The biggest hit for me is to involve the National Hunt racing people and with Bob Champion, champion jockey Peter Scudamore, local trainer Jimmy Frost and 15 times champion trainer Martin Pipe attending, it's the icing on the cake."

But Allen also has a few cherries up his sleeve which come in the shape of some very exciting racing memorabilia for the grand auction to be held at The East Dart Hotel at Postbridge.

"Tommy Stack (Red Rum's jockey), Richard Dunwoody MBE, and Willie Carson MBE have all sent me fantastic items," added Allen who has a special keep safe at his home in Tavistock, which now holds a framed print of Nashwan opening his shoulders in the last furlong of the 1989 Derby signed by Willie Carson; a photo of champion hurdler winner Granville Again signed by Peter Scudamore and Martin Pipe; Bob Champion and Aldaniti signed prints and framed photos of Red Rum to name just a few.

"Seeing all this arrive has given me goosebumps - we have had so much support both locally and nationally."

Allen briefly met Bob years ago while watching him train on the Sussex Downs. "I've not spoken since until I was given his mobile number a few months ago and I just made the call - I couldn't believe it when they said yes to him coming - it's been the platform to building the event."

The 1981 Grand National winner who was still recovering from cancer at the time, formed the Bob Champion Cancer Trust in 1983 which has raised millions of pounds for cancer research.

He will be at The East Dart Hotel for the day signing his book - Champions.

"I am delighted to support the ride as I feel the more attention we can bring to this condition and support we can give to the children and their families, the better," says Bob. "I hope that my involvement will help not just brave Paul but other children who need similar help."

Riders taking part will have their own sponsorship forms with proceeds going to six-year-old Paul and other children with autism. The landlord and landlady of East Dart Hotel - John and Mary Bastin, have put on a free buffet for those taking part and the person raising the most money will get a free day's racing at the Devon and Exeter racecourse.

"In previous years the ride has been great in raising awareness for autism but we have not had the funds to do any more. This year we want to raise money for Paul's playroom which will then be used as an outreach centre for other children," says Allen who is thrilled to now have a Son-Rise professional in the area - Beth Burton - who is keen to increase her families.

The Son-Rise programme is a natural therapy which focuses on silent interaction with the child.

"You mirror the child in what they do - it is their space and you go with them. You then get to understand just how gifted they are and find yourself loving the autism - it's when you get to this stage that you finally have cracked it, because if you love them as they are, they know it in an instant and they start to interact, you bring them out into our world and it works. Paul was a mute with no eye contact - now he can hold a conversation with you," explains Allen.

"It's been a very emotional journey but I would not want to change Paul for the world - he is the most amazing child and because of him he has rekindled my fire with horses that I'd thought had gone forever.

"Our goal is that when parents like us get a diagnosis for a child on the Autistic Spectrum they are given the Son-Rise Programme therapy as an option."

He added: "People have been terrific and we have to thank all of those who have helped us on the way, including Paul's sponsors Tavistock Tyres with the help of the Protyre Group. We have to raise our own money as we get no financial assistance from the county council."

The Dartmoor ride for Autism takes place at 11am on Sunday April 13, starting at The East Dart Hotel, Postbridge. The ride costs £10 but all sponsored riders go free. For more details please call Allen Lewis on 01822 614335.