12 Mar 2014

Solo pilgrimage raises more than £9,000, and a ray of hope for the MND Association

Mike Fitzgerald

Last autumn we featured an article on fundraiser Mike Fitzgerald as he embarked on a solo 500-mile walk along the ancient Camino to Santiago De Compostela path.

Translated as the Way of St. James, the pilgrimage is a large labyrinth of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe. Setting off from the French border, the expedition took Mike across the tip of the Pyrenees, crossing Northern Spain to the cathedral city of Santiago de Compostilo – a UNESCO world heritage site.

We caught up with Mike, after he had recovered from expedition, to find out more about his experience and how the funds raised will be used.

Mike recalls the trials of his solo walk: “Walking across the wild empty spaces of The Meseta in Spain was testing. Climbing the steepest slope up to Ceberiero, which is called The Mountain Door to Galicia, was a tough trek. But walking into Santiago de Compostilo, and meeting other pilgrims at the cathedral, was the most moving part.”

Mike’s pilgrimage raised an astonishing £9,000 - precious funds for the MND (Motor Neurone Disease) Association.

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.

Securing vital funds for pioneering Biomarker project

The money raised from Michael’s expedition will be used to fund research by neurologist, Dr Andrea Malaspina – a renowned consultant present on national and international boards supervising research on MND - and will be helping with a new Biomarker project.

The purpose of this pioneering Biomarker 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.

Roger Widdecombe, Regional Fundraiser (East England) for the MND Association, said: “We have really appreciated the tremendous support that Mike Fitzgerald has given to the Association by raising more than £9,000 for our important research and in particular Dr Andrea Malaspina’s Biomarker Project.”

Roger went on to say: “Mike has been a great inspiration to others as he has undertaken a truly fantastic challenge, trekking solo over 500 miles on the ancient Camino Way’ to Santiago De Compostela. We look forward to working with Mike again in the future.”

MyDonate: always ready and willing to help

For Michael, MyDonate’s easy-to-navigate website made it a straightforward process to his set up his page. He said: “The web site is easy to use and MyDonate have very low costs. Their staff are always ready and willing to help with any problems and come up with suggestions on how to spread the word for your charity.”

He also recommends like-minded fundraisers should: “Pick out an event that will catch peoples imagination and target your audience.”

A keen fundraiser, Michael is already planning his next expedition. He said: “I am thinking hard on what to do next and one idea is to get as many people as possible to take part in walking part, or the whole, of the camino next year.”

So far Michael has raised more than £7,300 – a remarkable sum that, with Gift Aid collected by MyDonate, has been boosted to an incredible £9,034.

View Michael’s fundraising page

For more information about the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

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