Walkers have trekked from Salford to Leeds to raise money for the MND Association, after being inspired by rugby league star Rob Burrow’s battle against the disease.
The walk, organised by Salfordian Ben Lever, has raised more than £10,000 with more money still coming in.
The epic trek, in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, took 14 and a half hours and covered 47 miles over the Pennines on April 19.
Rob Burrow, a former Rugby League player who spent his entire career with Leeds Rhinos, revealed his MND diagnosis at the age of 37.
Since the news, the rugby and wider sporting world have rallied around Burrow and many fundraising efforts have taken place in order to raise money for the MND Association. Burrow recently featured in a BBC documentary titled – Rob Burrow: My Year With MND. This piece is what kickstarted the idea for the walk.
Lever said: “My dad was in hospital with sepsis, and it was the time the Rob Burrow documentary was on the BBC.
“So he (Ben’s dad) messaged me saying have you watched it and what not, but I hadn’t seen it. So I watched it on the iPlayer and I was just taken aback.
“It’s terrible what has happened to him with him being a sportsperson, not that that matters, it is happening to a lot of people, and my Dad was like we should do something for charity.
“I put the idea of doing the walk from Salford to Leeds over to him and he was like yeah that sounds like a good idea.”
Lever posted the idea on Facebook, and people began to show interest straight away.
He added: “It got a really good reaction to be honest! People were saying ‘count me in, count me in’ so it kind of took off from there.”
The group grew to the size of twenty people, all raring to endure the trek. The big day came and the walk started well, but the enormity of the walk started to show for some.
Lever said: “We started off on fire. Everyone was feeling great, morale was still high. But after around 30 miles, everyone was like, this is a tough, tough job!
“We had eight miles left, we’d just got into Leeds, you could see the town centre in the distance and it was just mental. It was like, you’ve come this far, I was never going to stop but my legs were going ‘come on, you’ve got to give me a break here’.
“We had a couple who couldn’t finish due to injury which was fine. It was a team effort so we got there in the end.”
After 46 miles Headingley was in sight, a feeling which brought great relief to Lever and the team.
He added: “It was a good feeling. We’d been checking the JustGiving page through the day because the original target was £5,000, we knew we’d get there straight away, because of how many people were involved and the backing we’d had. So we changed the amount to £7,777, because Rob’s number for Leeds was seven. It was just keeping the theme of seven.”
Achieving that target on the day provided a needed boost for the group and the total continued to rise.
“We’ve just hit £10,000 now which is absolutely amazing, I didn’t think we’d get there but it’s just made it all worthwhile in the end to be honest,” said Lever.
With the success Lever and the group achieved, are there future plans for any events similar?
He said: “Everyone was like ‘what we doing next, what we doing next?’
“I try and do something every year just for charity, obviously while your healthy you try and give a bit back because you never who is next.
“Obviously with MND, Rob had no idea of MND and it is a genetics thing, it’s not something you catch as such, it’s in your body. Obviously they need to find cures and medicines to catch it early for people so they can save lives.
“People who are catching it early, hopefully there’s medications now that can control it and prolong it if anything and get rid of it which will hopefully be the end goal.”
Prior to the walk, news of Lever and the group’s plans reached Burrow, who shared his support on social media:
Lever added: “One of the initial tweets where we tagged Rob and the MND association, Rob actually retweeted and replied to it which was great.”
Lever and the group enjoyed a well earned rest, but the group were eager to do something similar again.
He said: “The people on the walk were asking what we are doing next, I was like I’m having a beer first to start and then we can start planning!”
Their JustGiving page can be found at this address: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mndwalk2021