A BUSINESSMAN who has raised more than half-a-million pounds for a health charity received an MBE in the New Year Honours.

Graham Kennedy was inspired to raise funds for the Friedreich’s Ataxia charity in 1990 after discovering that two of his children suffered from the genetic disease.

He set up an annual Big Bad Bike Ride, beginning with one from York to Filey in 1991, and this year is planning a 75-mile circular ride from Pitlochry in the Scottish Highlands, involving about 150 riders.

He said the rides have now raised almost £600,000 for Ataxia UK, which helps youngsters hit by the condition – which affects the nervous system – and this year’s ride was expected to generate at least another £50,000. “My target is to raise a million pounds,” he said. “My ambition is to close York with a massive bike ride, similar to what happens in Cape Town every March when 36,000 take part."

He added that he was hoping to launch a website for the ride by next week – bigbadbikeride.co.uk

Mr Kennedy, of Bishopthorpe, is the managing director of Inner Space Stations, which runs a service station in Hull Road, and has other property and business interests all over York and beyond.

He said that when a letter arrived several weeks ago, telling him he was to receive the MBE, he didn’t open it for several days – because he thought it was a big tax demand.

“The letter said it was on Her Majesty’s service so I just put it to one side for six days,” he said.

“When I opened it and saw I was being awarded the MBE I was flabbergasted. It’s a real honour to receive this award.

“It’s a tribute to all the people who have helped me. Over the years, a lot of people, mainly from the York area, have been involved in the bike rides.”