09 Oct 2013

500 miles of hope

Motor Neurone Disease AssociationSeptember signals the start of autumn, bringing with it the changing hues of the leaves and a sense of a fresh start. For Michael Fitzgerald, it brought a unique challenge - a 500 mile trek along the top of Spain.

Michael’s trip began early September when he flew down to Biarritz, France. From here he took the train up to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a hillside village on the French side of the Pyrenees. This was the starting point for Michael’s solo fundraising trek along the ancient Camino to Santiago De Compostela path. He’ll be using his walk to raise funds for the MND (Motor Neurone Disease) Association.

Tracing the region’s history

The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large labyrinth of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe. These paths meet at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish), in Santiago de Compostela, north-west Spain.

Along the way Michael will be taking in some of the region’s majestic scenery. From ornate palaces (Gaudi’s palace in Astorga) to holy shrines (Burgos’ ancient cathedral), the route will offer snapshots of the country’s rich history mixed with contemporary Spanish life.

A world free of MND

MND is a progressive disease that attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. This means messages gradually stop reaching muscles, which leads to muscle weakness and wasting. The disease can affect how sufferers walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe.

While there is no cure at present, funds raised for the MND Association go a long way to improving the quality of life for those suffering from MND. The MND Association strives to ensure everybody living with MND receives the best care, achieves the highest possible quality of life and can die with dignity.

Over the past three years Michael has lost two close friends to Motor Neurones Disease (MND). In response, he has decided to raise some money for this much needed charity.

He said: “It seemed to me that MND did not have the same level of funding that some other charities were getting. As I started fundraising, my brother Barry was also diagnosed with MND and he recently passed away. It was then that I decided to do this walk both as a way of raising funds and in memory of my brother.”

Fundraiser for the MND Association, Roger Widdecombe said “We have been very grateful for the fantastic support of Mike Fitzgerald who has been raising funds for the MND Association and in particular for our MND Research. Money raised by Mike, his family and friends has been used to fund research by Dr Andrea Malaspina and will be helping with a new Biomarker project.”

The purpose of the project is to identify accurate ways to track and predict the progression of MND in different groups of patients, using novel methods of analysis. Biomarkers are specific biochemical and / or structural changes that occur within the brain and spinal cord, which together, will provide a unique ‘fingerprint’ of MND.

Handy hints

Michael believes MyDonate’s fundraising tips and ideas have been particularly helpful.

He said: “MyDonate always informs me by email when a donation is given, and their web site has so many ideas of how I can increase the profile of my charity.”

Speaking on behalf of the MND Association Roger said:

“We’re very grateful for the support of everyone making donations; your help is invaluable to us. We would like to encourage everyone to use MyDonate for their fundraising - it’s free, and 100 per cent of funds raised will go directly to the MND Association.”

Michael has so far raised £6,326: view Michael’s fundraising page

For more information about the Motor Neurone Disease Association.





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