Popular Big Issue vendor Richie was reduced to tears after his British Superbike hero Peter Hickman turned up on his Lincoln pitch to present him with a £5,000 cheque.
The 47-year-old inspired his regular customers to raise £6,000 to help him cover his cost of living when he undergoes an operation to amputate part of his left leg.
But Deborah Chester, the customer who kicked off the crowdfunding campaign, still had one surprise left for Richie.
Earlier this morning, she invited top motorcycle racer Hickman on to Richie’s pitch to hand over the cheque for £5,450.86 (following fees deducted by campaign host Facebook), leaving seller Richie emotional.
Richie said: “Last time I spoke to Deborah she told me that she had a surprise for me and because I follow Peter Hickman quite closely, I had a funny feeling it would be to do with him. I’ve met Peter before because last Christmas they came to see me on my pitch and brought me a big holdall full of stuff like clothing and food. They’re an amazing family and I wish him all the best luck in the world and I hope he keeps himself safe in the dangerous job that he does.
“But it was a nice surprise to see him there – he’s a really, really nice guy and it was nice of him to take time out of his busy schedule to come and see me for 20 minutes. Everyone’s been absolutely amazing.”
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
Deborah added: “It went really well. Obviously Richie was shocked when we presented the cheque to him but I think he was even more shock that his hero had gone to present it. As soon as Peter heard about it, he jumped at the chance.
“I think it really became reality today for Richie that this had actually happened for him. It was quite emotional. Richard started crying and then had to sit down and then a couple of minutes later I started crying but it was happy emotion for all of us.”
Richie, who has sold the magazine for 23 years – most recently outside M&S in Lincoln – is still waiting to find out a date for when he will go under the knife and is hoping to hear more news next week when he meets with his surgeon.
The former horticultural engineer suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that has left him with “seven per cent” of his circulation remaining in his left leg. And it has already been a tragic year for Richie, who lost pet dog and long-time companion Stix earlier this year.
His story has touched the hearts of people in Lincoln and among his regular customers.
“I just never expected that amount of money – it is absolutely phenomenal,” Richie told The Big Issue. “I’ve seen that kind of money before but never from my friends. I’ve got some amazing friends and I never realised that our friendships went that far. I’d like to say thank you so much to everybody and that I cherish every single one of you. I’m so honoured to be friends with you – there are some amazing people out there.
“The money will take a big pressure release from me because when I do go into hospital I won’t be able to sell the magazine so now I know I will be able to at least pay the rent and I can still pay my bills and pay for taxis to and from the hospital.”