THE SON of a Coventry doctor is driving more than 10,000 miles from the UK to Mongolia to raise vital funds for charity in memory of his sister.
Utkarsh ‘Kash’ Dandekar, whose father Dr Uday Dandekar is a consultant cardiac surgeon at University Hospital (UHCW), is taking part in the Mongol Rally challenge to raise money for Delete Blood Cancer following the death of his younger sister Riya Dandekar, who tragically lost her battle with cancer aged just 21.
Describing the challenge as an ‘epic road trip’, 25-year-old dental student Kash from Solihull and a group of friends are driving through 18 countries on two continents – including France, Romania, Georgia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Russia – to Mongolia in a 22-year-old VW Polo.
The Rally challenges participants to drive from a European city to Mongolia adhering to three simple rules – the vehicle must be ‘farcically small’; entrants can’t have outside help; and teams have to raise £1,000 for charity.
Currently somewhere near the Russian border, Kash said: “I am embarking on this epic journey not only because I love to travel and wanted do something thrilling, but because of my sister, Riya.
“Her journey inspired thousands of people to join the bone marrow registry – her campaigns helped the UK bone marrow registry increase four-fold and her bravery saw her win Most Influential Woman of the year 2014.
“In her memory, I have chosen to fundraise and raise money for Delete Blood Cancer – a charity that stood close to her heart.”
Ulrika ‘Riya’ Dandekar died at Solihull’s Marie Curie Hospice on December 31, 2014 surrounded by her loved ones.
Riya was first given the devastating Anaplastic Lymphoma diagnosis after discovering a lump in her armpit in February 2013.
And because of the lack of Asian bone marrow donors, the odds of finding a match were stacked against her with just a one in 125,000 chance.
Tragically, despite finding a donor for Riya, she never went into remission and the operation could not go ahead.
Just seven months after her diagnosis, she was told her cancer was incurable and she was referred to hospice care to live her final weeks in comfort.
Even from her hospice bed, Riya continued to campaign tirelessly to encourage people to sign up to the bone marrow register.
“By driving half way across the world, I hope to not only raise money but also awareness of cancer and encourage more people worldwide to join their local bone marrow registries,” Kash said.
“In embarking on this drive of a lifetime, I also hope to live Riya’s dream and passion for travelling.”
Kash and his friends are due to reach the finish line in Mongolia later this month and will then return home.
They hope to raise £8,000, which will be split between three charities – Delete Blood Cancer,a charity that stood very close to Riya’s heart, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Cool Earth.
Search ‘Mongol Rally Odyssey’ on Facebook to keep up to date with their travels and visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/MongolRallyOdyssey to help them reach their fundraising target.