‘Spennylympics,’ UK Couple’s 96 Olympic Events, to Support MND

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by Vanda Pinto, PhD |

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Olympic events for MND Association | ALS News Today | the Olympic circles

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Taking part in one Olympic event is an extreme accomplishment — but a U.K. couple are engaged in their version of 96 Olympic events, from synchronized swimming and skateboarding to cycling and wrestling, all in an effort to raise £30,000 (about $41,620) to support the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MND Association).

Stuart Bates, a window cleaner, Charlotte Nichols, a medical student, are holding these athletic events — which they are calling “the Spennylympics” — at sites across that country. The challenge is a tribute to Bates’ brother, Spencer, also known as Spenny, who died of complications due to MND some 10 years ago.

MND is the umbrella term given to a group of neurodegenerative disorders that includes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). All affect the nerves, called motor neurons, in the brain and spinal cord, leading to the progressive deterioration of muscles and loss of motor control.

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“We are both excited and terrified by this challenge in equal measure! We have been astounded by the level of support and interest throughout the British Olympic community that we have received so far and are incredibly grateful to everyone who is working hard to help us achieve this dream,” Bates and Nichols said in a MND Association press release.

“We haven’t stopped over the last few months, training at all hours around our usual day jobs … We are so motivated to raise vital awareness and funds for the MND Association in memory of Spenny and for all of those currently battling this disease for which there is currently no cure,” they added.

Bates and Nichols will take part in these 96 events during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which opened on July 23 and run through Aug. 8. This fundraising challenge, thought to be the first of its kind, will also include a marathon run, a 10 km swim, a 240 km cycle race, archery, badminton, fencing, and 10 meter platform diving. The marathon, to be run in Weymouth, concludes their challenge.

The couple’s initial fundraising goal of £25,000 is already met, with £28,891 collected as of publication date on the Spennylympics’ JustGiving page.

Spencer Bates died in August 2011 while in his 40s, and his brother planned the challenge to mark the 10-year anniversary and to celebrate Spenny’s life. The couple hope to encourage people to donate and ultimately make a difference in the lives of people living with MNDs.

MND Association, a nonprofit group, supports access to care, and funds and promotes research work to help people affected by these diseases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Other activities include advising patients on financial benefits, providing access to important medical information, and offering support through grants.

More information on the Spennylympics can be found here, and donations to support the association can be made through its JustGiving page.