Sean McLaughlan, James Connell and Stephen Mather will take in Glasgow’s football stadia in a fundraising challenge
Three amateur football coaches have teamed up to run 13km around Glasgow, checking in at top football stadiums across the city, in support of their former coach who is living with motor neurone disease (MND).
On the weekend of the Scottish Cup Final, Sean McLaughlan (28), James Connell (33) and Stephen Mather (34), will be taking part in MND Scotland’s Fun Run Relay, and have given their fundraising efforts a football-themed twist in honour of their former coach, George Walker.
On Sunday 23 May, the three men will run 13km between Glasgow’s football stadiums. The route will start at St Anthony's Junior Football Club in Cardonald, where George used to coach, and will go on to Ibrox, Hampden and Celtic Park.
Sadly, George (from Airdrie, 61), who is a retired plumber and football coach, was diagnosed with MND in 2019 and is now bed-bound, unable to continue working or pursuing his passion of playing football.
MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. It can cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe unaided.
George’s daughter, Georgi (22) told us, “Football has always been my dad’s passion and he was a semi-professional goalkeeper with Collier Row, Lesmahagow and Cambuslang Rangers at one point in his life. When he was diagnosed with MND in 2019 he was still doing football coaching with Dunbeth Football Club, but he soon deteriorated and had to give it up six months after his diagnosis.
“As well as this, he had to give up work at the same time due to his disease. His muscles had stopped working to their full capacity which made him unable to carry out his trade. This was all very detrimental to my dad’s mental health as these were two things he loved doing and they were taken away from him so quickly.
“Now two years on, my dad cannot walk and is bed bound because of MND and cannot feed or wash himself. He relies on his family to care for him 24/7, as well as his occupational therapist, Laura, and physiotherapist, Iona, who have both been great, and have helped my dad every step of the way, with anything he has needed to adapt to his new way of living.”
Following the diagnosis, three amateur football players George used to coach, are stepping up to show their support by raising funds for charity MND Scotland.
Sean, a communications and office manager, James, an additional support needs teacher and Stephen, a coachbuilder, met 15 years ago at Shotstoppers Goalkeeping Academy based in Giffnock, where they were coached by George.
Sean said “I knew a bit about MND because I’ve worked with MND Scotland through my previous job. I worked with Christina McKelvie MSP, who is a huge advocate for the cause and the charity. However, the other boys weren’t too aware of the disease, the implications and, sadly, the prognosis. Which is part of the reason why we're keen to help.
“We appreciate how much George did for us all through football, coaching and the impact he made through Shotstoppers. I know the impact MND can have both on the person and on the wider family. If there was anything we could do to help further research, support or assistance, both for George and other people living with MND, we are happy to help.”
Determined to take on the 13km stadium run this month, Stephen, James and Sean added: “We all wanted to do something to show our support for George. Coincidentally, MND Scotland’s Fun Run is the same weekend as the Scottish Cup Final, so we thought this was the perfect opportunity to raise money for MND Scotland, showing the transformative power of football in making a difference to those living with motor neurone disease.
“We’re running from St Anthony's Junior Football Club, where George coached, past Ibrox, Hampden and Celtic Park. All the grounds represent some part of our George's football career or support and being a huge Celtic fan, we felt finishing the run there would be appropriate.
”We’re all at different levels of fitness – some much fitter than others – but we’re keen to do what we can for George who has helped us so much over the years.
“We’re hoping to raise as much as possible and, only 24 hours after our JustGiving went live, we have smashed our target of £500. We hope sharing this will further awareness and fund research and - eventually – help find a cure for MND.”
Iain McWhirter, from MND Scotland, said: “I would like to thank Sean, James and Stephen for joining our Fun Run Relay and for showing support to George and his family.
“Without our amazing fundraisers we wouldn’t be able to continue supporting families like the Walkers, or fund pioneering research which is bringing us closer to a cure.
“We hope even more people will sign up for the MND Scotland Fun Run Relay between 22 – 23 May and join our fightback against MND. It's free and fun! Just visit www.mndscotland.org.uk/fun-run for more information.”