Former teammate, Belfast-based Stuart Thom, is organising a series of sporting events this spring
Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir OBE is set to visit Northern Ireland in April to attend a gala dinner organised by his former teammate which will raise vital funds for Doddie’s charity to carry out research into motor neurone disease.
Doddie, who earned 61 caps for Scotland and represented the British and Irish Lions in 1997, is facing his biggest challenge as he battles the disease, a condition that affects the brain and nerves.
He set up the My Name’5 (note: 5 is correct) Doddie Foundation in 2017 after announcing that he had been diagnosed with MND, to help raise awareness and funds to find a cure for the devastating disease.
He has now raised over £5m and was presented with the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in December.
Fellow Scotsman Stuart Thom, who played at Melrose Rugby Club with Doddie and now lives in Belfast, raised over £50,000 for the charity through events held in 2018 and 2019 and is hoping to raise another £50,000 this year through events including a gala dinner at the Culloden Hotel on April 16 which Doddie plans to attend, along with around 400 guests.
He is also organising the 11-day Great Rugby Cycle around Ireland – taking in the island’s most northerly, westerly, southerly and easterly points – which former rugby players Nigel Carr, Bryan Redpath, Ollie Phillips, Iwan Tukalo and Simon Danielli, as well as former Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien are aiming to complete.
A sporting legends golf event will take place on the same day as the dinner which will feature top names including brothers Scott and Gavin Hastings, Andrew Trimble, Iain Dowie, Austin Healey, Lee Mears and Paul Marshall.
Mr Thom, who is also Chief Executive of Royal Belfast Golf Club, said: “I grew up in Melrose in the Scottish Borders where I played rugby with Doddie in the 1990s and since then we have been friends. No-one can fail to be moved by his fight with MND and the heroic way that he has turned his focus to raising as much money as possible to help find a cure.
“The rugby ‘family’ is strong and I’m delighted that we have support from big names like former British Lion Martin Bayfield, who will be MC at the gala, joining Doddie and some of their old friends and faces from their time together in rugby.
“It’s set to be a fantastic night filled with friendship and fun and probably a few tears too. It marks the end of the Great Rugby Cycle where 18 cyclists will have completed a 1,002 route around Ireland and is the same day as the sporting legends golf event at Royal Belfast which is filling up fast with famous names!
“But it’s not just about the famous people taking part. We have also had lots of support from people whose lives have been touched by the disease or are just keen to help with a worthy cause and we really appreciate that generosity.”
Lifestyle influencer Tiffany Brien was part of a team of cyclists who helped raise £26,000 for the charity last year through a 15-day cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End. She says she is looking forward to taking part despite knowing the challenge that lies ahead:
“I knew it would be tough last year but totally underestimated the challenge of cycling around eight hours a day in weather which seemed constantly freezing and wet. It was gruelling but we had such fun, we all helped each other when we needed a boost and the morale in the group was always kept high.
“It was mentally and physically challenging but the most incredible adventure for such a worthy cause. The physical pain and mental strain was nothing to what MND sufferers go through every day and this is what we all kept remembering when we were struggling. I am very honoured to be able to take part in this challenge and be involved with such a worthy cause.
“I’m back again for another year because I really want to support the work that Stuart is doing to make a difference to those suffering from MND and their families.”
More information about the charity events is at: https://doddie5-ride.co.uk/the-great-rugby-cycle-2020
To buy tickets for the Great Rugby Cycle end of Cycle Gala Dinner contact Sarah@weirevents.co.uk