‘Spennylympics’ Duo in UK Raise £150,000 for MND Association

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by Mary Chapman |

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Completing their version of 102 Olympic events — including archery, diving, and fencing — in 17 days, Stuart Bates and Charlotte Nichols raised some £150,000 (about $207,000) for the U.K.’s Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association.

The Oxfordshire duo wound up their grueling challenge, thought to be the first of its kind, with a seaside marathon run in the English town of Weymouth, where they were greeted by a packed crowd. Athletic events were held at sites across the U.K. between July 23 and Aug. 8, coinciding with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

They dubbed their fundraising feat the “Spennylympics” in tribute to Bates’ brother, Spencer, known as Spenny. The married father of two young sons died of MND complications a decade ago while in his 40s. MND, a group of progressive neurological disorders, includes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Bates, a window cleaner, and Nichols, a medical student, had initially sought to raise £10,000 for the organization. The nonprofit MND Association supports access to care, and funds and promotes research aiming to help individuals affected by MNDs in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Among events that Bates and Nichols completed were artistic swimming, badminton, handball, golf, karate, sailing, surfing, tennis, shot put, high jump, basketball, and wrestling. The two had spent some eight months carefully training and planning how pull off all the events in two-and-a-half weeks while working full time.

During their events, the two reportedly fell off horses, had to be rescued from a lake, and generally endured a myriad of scrapes, bruises, and other minor mishaps.

“We are feeling a mixture of elated, proud of each other, and totally exhausted,” Bates and Nichols said jointly in a press release. “It was the perfect ending to finish in Weymouth where Spenny spent his whole life, and to cross the finish line with a huge group of friends, family, well-wishers and world media was completely overwhelming.

“Completing 102 Olympic events in 17 days has been physically demanding and taken us to mental places that we didn’t know existed,” they added. “To know that we have raised nearly £150,000 for the MND Association makes all of the pain worthwhile, and the messages of support that we have received from those affected by MND throughout have driven us on when it felt impossible. We will continue raising awareness and money until a cure is found.”

About 60 current and former Olympic athletes were recruited to serve as event ambassadors, raising awareness of MNDs and the Spennylympics. Some also spent long hours helping the couple learn each sport’s fundamentals.

“I have the honour of supporting many great fundraisers, branches and groups, and I think Stuart and Charlotte capture the spirit of the whole MND Association with the Spennylympics,” said Russell Spivey, the MND Association’s regional fundraiser.

“Every day in the UK, six people will receive the devastating news they have been diagnosed with MND. Stuart and Charlotte’s determination, passion, and commitment to raise thousands for the MND Association will hopefully one day lead us to more effective treatments and a cure for this disease,” Spivey added.

“Their fundraising is phenomenal and the awareness they have raised of MND on a global stage is immeasurable.”