'It's a hell of a tragedy': donations balloon after crash death of fundraising cyclist Marc
In collision with a car ... Marc Simone.
Last week, Marc Simone sat down to write an article about his impending 4000km bike ride from the Blue Mountains to Darwin.
The journey would be a daunting challenge for the former pre-school teacher turned IT professional, who admitted more than once that he was far from a professional cyclist.
Good luck daddy. I'm happy that you decided to help the homeless children
But the prospect of pedalling that far was not as confronting to the 45-year-old as the cause he was raising funds for: homelessness among Australia's children.
Marc Simone ... intended to ride 4000km.
Now, Mr Simone's friends are planning to complete the epic ride without their mate, who was knocked off his bike and killed during a training ride in Sydney's west at the weekend.
The father-of-two had set off from his home in Winmalee in the Blue Mountains early on Saturday morning. Just after 7.30am, he was riding east in the breakdown lane of the M4 at Emu Plains when he was in a collision with a Jeep Cherokee and was flung from his bike. He died at the scene.
"It's a hell of a tragedy," Mr Simone's friend Keith Roberts said on Tuesday.
Wanted to make a difference for homeless people .... Marc Simone.
"I think the shock is starting to wear off and reality is setting in.
"Mark wanted to do this ride. I don't know how we're going to do it, but we are going to make sure that the ride does happen in his name."
Mr Simone had set himself a target of raising $100,000 for Mission Australia during the four-week ride, which he was due to start in April.
Marc Simone ... wanted to raise $100,000.
Early last week his total was just shy of $2000. His children, 13-year-old Julia and 12-year-old Marc Anthony, were the first to chip in, each donating $20 towards their father's cause.
"Good luck daddy. I'm happy that you decided to help the homeless children," wrote Julia on his Everyday Hero fundraising page.
In the wake of Mr Simone's death, donations have ballooned out to more than $10,000. Now, his friends are hoping that donations will hit the $100,000 target as a legacy to their mate.
Mr Simone worked at IT company ASI Solutions, where he looked after NSW education accounts. His role fitted in well with his background as a former pre-school teacher, where he first encountered child homelessness.
"I believe that even one child without a loving home and without basic education is too many in Australia," Mr Simone wrote in an article for Fairfax Media last week.
"I want to make more people aware of this issue, so that we as a nation can work towards helping underprivileged children have a life to look forward to. I want to raise funds and donate them to the local 'Mission Australia'.
"What am I prepared to do to increase the awareness of youth homelessness? Ride a bicycle from Springwood NSW in the Blue Mountains to Darwin."
Mr Roberts said many people looked up to Mr Simone, who was also extremely determined.
When he had a crazy idea - such as completing a 4000km bike ride - he usually followed it through, Mr Roberts said.
"He started riding an old pushbike that was so old, Captain Cook might have brought it out with him," Mr Roberts laughed. But more and more people got behind Mr Simone and he started getting sponsors, and upgraded his bike.
Mr Roberts said his son had been a cycling training partner for Mr Simone since late last year.
"Unfortunately he couldn't go with him on Saturday. There was a change in circumstances and Marc went on by himself," Mr Roberts said.
Mission Australia spokesman Paul Andrews said staff were shattered to hear of Mr Simone's death. "Particularly the individuals in our fundraising team who have been working with him since late last year," Mr Andrews said.
He said Mr Simone had approached Mission Australia to raise funds for the organisation, and also spent a night volunteering with Mission Beat, a transport service for homeless people in Sydney's CBD, to deepen his knowledge about homelessness.
Police are still investigating the cause of the crash on Saturday. Police said the 23-year-old male driver of the Jeep stopped at the crash scene and called emergency services. However, Mr Simone was unable to be saved.
The driver was taken to hospital where he was treated for shock, and underwent mandatory blood and alcohol testing. His vehicle was also seized for mechanical examination.
A funeral for Mr Simone will be held on Friday.
Police have appealed for anyone who saw the crash on Saturday to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.