Kind-hearted youth rugby players from Stroud RFC took on the challenge of scaling Pen y Fan – the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons, raising money for Gloucester lock Ed Slater’s fight against motor neurone disease.
The rugby star was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in July and retired from rugby union with immediate effect. He made three appearances for Gloucester in the Premiership last season, the most recent in January.
“Ed (Slater) is a popular figure at Stroud RFC and has attended training sessions and recently took part in the club’s annual prize giving,” said head youth coach Dave Dowden.
Wanting to give something back to Slater, the u12s grasped the testing challenge of climbing Pen y Fan, which measures 886m above sea level.
“The team decided to do this as our way of supporting him like he’s supported us,” revealed Dowden.
“Altogether we had 38 parents and children and ranging from all ages, special mention to both Jude Ind and Sue Dark, who are both in their twilight years but battled their way all the way to the top.
“The lads all took it in turns to carry tackle bags, but as they are foam filled, the wetter they got, the heavier they got but still they powered on regardless, but oddly enough for 11-year-olds not one of them moaned, all appreciated the task at hand and the reasons behind doing it, although they were cold and wet they soldiered on. The parents however had whiskey to keep them warm so they couldn’t complain.”
The team was also joined by Slater’s Gloucester team-mate Fraser Balmain, who did the climb eight times from four different locations.
Dowden said Slater was delighted with the dedication to the cause: “Ed is currently away abroad with his family, but I have spoken with him via WhatsApp and he’s very grateful for everyone’s efforts and has shared it on his Twitter and Instagram pages.”
The young team has now raised substantial money for further research and eclipsed their intended target.
Dowden said: “As it stands, including Gift Aid, we have raised £6682.49 for MNDA, who I must say have been very supportive from the start. We started out trying to raise £3k so to double it has been incredible.”
MND is a degenerative condition that affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
Former rugby league player Rob Burrow, Scotland rugby union lock Doddie Weir and ex-Liverpool right-back Stephen Darby have all been diagnosed with MND in recent years and have been actively campaigning to raise awareness of the disease.
Dowden added: “We would like to challenge every other rugby team in the country to take up a challenge to raise money to support those suffering from this awful disease.”
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