Meet the Harrogate nurses raising £200,000 for Doctors Without Borders, who got engaged on their latest cycling challenge

Whatever hardship Andy Dennis and his partner Tracey Hill faced during their 2,000 mile bike ride from Amsterdam to Gibraltar was inconsequential when compared to the plight of the people they were raising money to support.

It was that thought which kept them motivated through gruelling days in 38-degree heat, dehydrated, bitten by insects and bruised from the physical endeavour as they pushed themselves to the limit.

Earlier this year, the nurses from Harrogate completed their latest major challenge in a drive to raise more than £200,000 for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international humanitarian organisation which provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters or exclusion from healthcare.

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“It was really tough for us - we’re just average fitness people…We’re not athletes,” says 49-year-old Tracey. “But we have a soul, we have a lot of grit. And our determination to complete the challenge was always there. Even on the hardest, toughest days, we just did it and got through.”

Nurses Andy Dennis and Tracey Hill, from Harrogate, are working to raise more than £200,000 for Doctors Without Borders. Photo: Ernesto RogataNurses Andy Dennis and Tracey Hill, from Harrogate, are working to raise more than £200,000 for Doctors Without Borders. Photo: Ernesto Rogata
Nurses Andy Dennis and Tracey Hill, from Harrogate, are working to raise more than £200,000 for Doctors Without Borders. Photo: Ernesto Rogata

The couple had their fair share of those difficult days. Andy, 55, pedalled through a bout of tonsillitis and the pair had to take shelter under an olive tree at the side of a hilly road in Spain when Tracey became dizzy and unwell during a heatwave.

But they weren’t going to ‘fail’, they maintain resolutely. "After three months, we were back at home to our normal life, but people who are struggling, they are always struggling,” Tracey says.

Andy, a staff nurse in intensive care at Harrogate District Hospital, knows that more than most. He has taken part in four missions with MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders.

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Two poignant moments led to him becoming involved. The first was a trip to India in 1997, when he witnessed huge swathes of the population living in dire poverty. The second was in 2004 when he watched on television as the devastating tsunami struck communities around the Indian Ocean. On both occasions, he wanted to help.

Andy Dennis and Tracey Hill during the mammoth cycling challenge.Andy Dennis and Tracey Hill during the mammoth cycling challenge.
Andy Dennis and Tracey Hill during the mammoth cycling challenge.

Research into organisations that assist during times of crisis led him to MSF. In June 2005, he was away on his first mission, spending time in Uganda, where he worked providing medical care to citizens who were living in camps after being displaced by the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group.

He completed his second mission in 2008, heading to South Sudan to support the setting up of healthcare clinics, and returned to the country in 2013, this time working on a nutrition programme. With the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Andy then spent a month in Sierra Leone in 2014, caring for those who had contracted one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

Four years earlier, he had begun fundraising for MSF, setting himself a goal to raise £200,000 to support their work. “I wanted to keep connected with the organisation when I came out of the field," he says. “I hated the fact that as soon as I came away from a mission, that was me broken from MSF.”

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When Andy met Tracey whilst they were working together in intensive care, she too decided she wanted to support the cause.

“I knew Andy had a passion for Doctors Without Borders instantly,” she says. “We started a relationship and six months after meeting he was off for a six month placement mission in Africa.

"So I was on the treadmill straight away. His heart was in MSF. And as his partner, I’ve picked up on that passion.”

Tracey, who is now a specialist skin surgery nurse at York Hospital, aims to raise £15,000 and the couple already have generated a combined total of around £140,000 for MSF.

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Andy has previously walked from Amsterdam to Barcelona and the pair have also biked across the United States from San Francisco to New York, as well as holding regular fundraising events such as music nights and jumble sales. A Halloween metal night is being held to support their cause this Saturday.

In May, the pair set off on their Ride to the Rock cycle across Europe, the challenge having been postponed for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They travelled from Amsterdam to Gibraltar, calling at MSF operational centres in Brussels, Paris, Geneva and Barcelona.

The couple took unpaid leave from work and funded the challenge themselves, Andy explains, supported by sponsorship from global safety manufacturer Ansell and automotive manufacturer Toyota. He’s travelled around in Toyota Landcruisers during his MSF missions and wore protective kit by Ansell whilst in Sierra Leone.

Andy says: “As well as being grateful to our the sponsors, we’re both grateful to our NHS management teams for allowing us to pursue the fundraising. It’s incredible they appreciate the value this has in the world when they’re struggling to run units.”

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The couple came back from the ride with some personal news, after Tracey accepted a proposal from Andy during their time in Paris.

“It made it even more special,” Andy says. “I wanted it to be during something with an occasion to it. We have been fortunate enough to have been able to do a few of these [major fundraising challenges] and plan more in our future."

"Nobody knows what’s around the corner,” he adds. “We’ve had personal experiences of losing people we love. It focuses your mind on the fact life can be unfair and you have to do what you can now.”

The Halloween metal night takes place on October 29 at The Oatlands, Harrogate.

To support Andy and Tracey’s fundraising, visit and