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I received this message on the 5th July 2011. Stefan Minoru Bennett, Stef, was one of my oldest friends. We played rugby together from the age of 7 and went to school together from age 11.


3 years after this message, having been bed bound, kept alive by a ventilator and fed through a tube in his stomach for more than 6 months, Stef made the decision to have his treatment withdrawn. He died on the 12th August 2014.

Motor Neurone Disease (MND), also known as ALS, affects up to 5,000 adults in the UK. The disease leads to nerves not being able to send signals to muscles, causing them to weaken, stiffen and ultimately waste away.  There is a 1 in 300 risk of getting MND across a lifetime and six people die of it in the UK every day. As yet there is no cure. 

Doddie Weir earnt 61 caps for Scotland at second row, the same position as Stef. In June 2017 he revealed that he was suffering with MND. Inspirational as a rugby player, Doddie continues to inspire, having set up the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation to support fellow sufferers. The foundations aims are simple:

  • To raise funds to aid research into the causes of motor neurone disease and to investigate potential cures.   

  • To make grants to individuals suffering from MND, to enable them to live as fulfilled a life as possible.  

VVI remember feeling frustrated by my inability to help Stef in the years following his diagnosis. Inspired by Doddie’s proactive approach to the challenge, I hope that by rowing the atlantic and raising as much money as possible doing it, we can help give hope to MND sufferers in the future.

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