Doddie Weir

MND Hero

Gill Sherry

“Doddie used to say MND isn’t incurable, it’s just under-funded. We’ve got to keep fighting. We will keep banging the drum.”

Wise words indeed from Kevin Sinfield, the former professional rugby league player who recently completed his Ultra 7 in 7 Challenge (seven marathons in seven days) to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Sinfield, now the defence coach for the England rugby union team, took on the mammoth challenge following the news that his ex-Leeds teammate, Rob Burrow, had been diagnosed with MND.

To date, over £7million has been raised as a result of Sinfield’s efforts, an amazing achievement that resulted in him receiving a special award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in December.
At the same event, Rob Burrow received the Helen Rollason Award recognising his outstanding efforts in raising awareness for MND following his diagnosis in 2019. Currently, there is no cure for the disease that progressively affects the brain and nerves.

The previous year, Doddie Weir had been the recipient of the same award. Two professional sportsmen both diagnosed with MND. What were the chances?

It was Doddie’s son, Hamish, who presented Kevin Sinfield with his award at the prestigious event at MediaCityUK, Salford. Doddie sadly lost his battle with MND on 26th November but the courage shown by the Scottish rugby union star following his own diagnosis won him many more fans. Determined to raise funds, as well as awareness, he set up a foundation called ‘My Name’5 Doddie’ (the ‘5’ taken from the number on his Scotland shirt).

The Foundation is committed to helping those affected by Motor Neurone Disease. Having lost my father-in-law to the disease in 2004, I can’t stress how important this help is, not just for the person diagnosed, but for their whole family. And it’s not just financial support, the practical and emotional support means so much to those struggling to come to terms with, and manage, the constant challenges associated with the illness.

As devastating as it was to witness the deterioration of the man Rob Burrow described as a ‘MND hero’ and a ‘warrior’, it is hoped that the legacy of this ‘gentle giant’ will be that we find a cure for Motor Neurone Disease. In the meantime, knowing that the Foundation is helping to fund research into MND is reassuring news for everyone who has lived with its consequences.

Equally reassuring was the launch of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation Business Club. The Club brings together Foundation partners, sponsors and the community to work together and move towards a world free of MND. By encouraging influential business leaders to build relationships with like-minded individuals and organisations with a shared passion for the cause, it is hoped significant progress can be made in the fight against this cruel, life-limiting disease. Visit www.myname5doddie.co.uk/business-club for more information or to sign up.

Former Scotland international rugby player, John Jeffrey, said this at a memorial service for Doddie:
“Doddie, you are a legend, and your legacy will be that we do find a cure for MND.” He added that we all have a part to play in continuing Doddie’s legacy.

The disease is non-discriminative. Previously associated with those of advancing years, more and more fit, young, healthy people, including sporting professionals, are succumbing to the illness. The need for treatment has never been greater.

These words, spoken by Doddie himself in 2017, sum up the disease:
“I feel there’s not a lot being done to this terminal illness at the moment. It’s horrific when you get it because basically your body stops, your muscles stop and everything sort of disappears.”

Doddie did so much to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease, the ‘hero’ accolade well deserved. But his memory and legacy live on in the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation. The vision of the Foundation is a world free of MND. For Doddie, for Rob, and for everyone else affected by MND (past, present and future), let’s keep banging the drum.