A SPORTSWEAR designer has spoken of his pride at helping a pioneering North-east autism charity that has a special meaning to his life.

Jacob Turner, lead designer for Teesside-based Presca Sportswear, has created custom cycling gear for the North-East Autism Society (NEAS) next big event - the Tyne Confluence Cycling Challenge.

Jacob, who was diagnosed as autistic at the age of three, said: “We’ve taken our cue from the Tyne itself to create a river-inspired design for the cycling kit – so lots of wave patterns and water colours.

“NEAS approached us last year based on our reputation for sustainable gear – all our garment material is made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets.

NEAS have really been great to work with. They’ve been absolutely fantastic all the way through, really engaged, provided constructive feedback, and not been afraid to be critical.

The ride 170-mile ride will start on Saturday, August 21 at the ‘meeting of the waters’ in Hexham, where the tributaries of the River Tyne join.

The route will then follow the path of the South Tyne into the North Pennines, meeting the North Tyne, before riders rest the night at Bellingham.

The next day, riders will continue through Northumberland National Park to the River Rede near the Scottish border, before returning to the starting point at Hexham. From there, the ride will head east, following the Tyne itself to the finish line at Tynemouth.

Kevin Meikle, fundraising manager for NEAS and a keen cyclist who will be leading the team, said: “So much of our identity as a charity is rooted in our North-East communities and shared heritage, so we thought that following the waters of the Tyne would be a meaningful choice for our annual cycle ride.

“Designing the route around the how the rivers and tributaries come together was also highly symbolic. In the services that we provide, we have autistic children, autistic young people, and autistic adults who exist with a powerful confluence.

“This confluence can sometimes be choppy and too often goes unseen. So, we owe it to all the people we support, to seek the best understanding we can in order to personalise the support we give them.”

We’re very grateful to Jacob and the whole team at Presca for their support and fantastic work. I’m still hoping to persuade them to don their own designs and join us for the ride!

The commission held a special meaning for Jacob, who said: “I didn’t immediately mention to NEAS that I was autistic. It wasn’t until we got to know each other better that I told them, but I thought it was quite cool that I’m autistic and I got to help a great autism charity – and it turned out to be a really good partnership.”

“I’ve found before that when clients know I’m autistic, they treat me differently, so I’m a bit cautious about sharing that, but of course, it wasn’t an issue for the NEAS team.

"Of all the autism charities I’ve come across, they ‘get it’ more than anyone else."

To join the scenic yet tough Tyne Confluence Cycling Challenge, visit www.ne-as.org.uk/Event/tyne-confluence-sportive. Riders are given a target to raise £400 towards the Society’s work – a tenner for each year the charity has been supporting North-East families.

Each rider will receive their own commemorative jersey in Jacob’s limited-edition design.

Kevin added: “We’re proud that the annual NEAS cycle ride has become an established event in the North-East’s calendar. We have a number of exciting and effective sponsorship opportunities available – please get in touch if you or your business would like to help support a vital regional charity.”

For more information on the challenge, contact the fundraising team on 01914 109 974.