DURING my short time as a journalist I’ve written many stories for various charities.
Without exception, they have all been worthy causes and have seen hundreds of people in this town showing how generous they can be.
This time though, it’s my turn to do the good deed. On September 18 this year, alongside my friend Sam Robinson, I’ll be running the Great North Run for a very special cause.
Around seven years ago, my family’s life was turned upside down.
My uncle and former Wigan Warriors coach Mike Gregory, contracted Progressive Muscular Atrophy, a form of Motor Neurone Disease. What followed was four years of heartbreak and torment for my family.
Mike had enjoyed a wonderful career. Skipper for both Warrington and Great Britain, he made many friends and gained even more admirers for his ‘Rip and Tear’ attitude.
Off the pitch, he was a gentleman and a family man through and through.
Former RL star and Sky pundit, Phil Clarke once told me: “Mike was of a rare group. He was a great player but an even more outstanding human being.”
A proud moment for Mike was his short stint in charge of his hometown club, leading the Warriors to both the Grand Final and Challenge Cup Final before having to take time away for his illness.
He slowly deteriorated; gradually losing the use of his arms, legs and speech. He never lost his fight though, nor his wit. Both were as strong and as sharp as ever.
On November 19, 2007, Mike passed away with his close family by his side.
Beforehand, he had planned to take part in the BUPA Great North Run with wife Erica but was too poorly to even be pushed in his wheelchair.
And now, I’m looking to take on that task in his name to raise money for the South Lancs branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
I’ll be completing the gruelling 13-mile course with my friend Sam, who also knew Mike well.
Back in 2008, he joined a group of Warriors fans and myself in climbing Ben Nevis to raise money for the Mike Gregory Trust.
He said: “I only saw Mike play on a few occasions as a young child but I attended almost every game in which he was in charge of Wigan in 2003 in which he successfully guided them to the Grand Final.
“He was an exceptional Rugby League talent, a tough, rugged, dedicated man on the rugby field and a joker, gentleman and true family man off it.
“A real inspiration to all and someone I’ve always aspired to. I’m proud to be accompanying Greg in the Great North Run in September raising money and awareness for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
“I’m certainly looking forward to the weekend up in Newcastle and the first round on Greg in the pub after I’m first over that finishing line!”
The family have always been humbled by the support from rugby fans.
“When we had the ‘Hike for Mike’ at Haigh Hall to raise money, we were truly humbled by the support we received,” said Mike’s wife Erica.
“The rugby league community really rallied round. It is one of the most cruel diseases which incarcerates someone in a body, yet their mind still works.
“Once again, we ask for people’s support in raising money for this wonderful charity.”
And it is just that; wonderful. It helps improve what is a terrible quality of life for the sufferer and for that reason, Sam and I have set £1,000 as our target.
If you would like to donate you can either visit www.justgiving.com/runningformike or contact our newsdesk on 01942 506283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.