James Clarke from Wyck has pledged to “pick up the ball” following the death of Scotland rugby international Doddie Weir by fundraising for research into a cure for motor neurone disease (MND).

Before his death from the disease in December, Doddie Weir set up the My Name’ 5 Doddie Foundation which has raised an incredible £8million towards vital research into the underfunded disease.

James, 42, a father of three, was diagnosed with the debilitating disease in December 2021. He has since raised more than £470,000 for the foundation and in his latest wave of fundraising the ambition is to take that to more than £500,000.

“The strength and determination Doddie displayed while fighting MND was truly inspirational,” said James.

After his diagnosis, James completed a 50-mile sponsored cycle along the Shipwrights Way with his 13-year-old son and 24 other riders.

“My body was in immense pain towards the last few miles, so having my son there alongside me was a real boost. I was very emotional crossing the finish line,” he said.

In October 2022, he raised more than £200,000 to help fund research into MND by organising a black-tie ball at Frensham Hall.

Last month, James joined his team of colleagues at Knight Frank to complete the Mount Anvil Peloton Challenge which in itself raised more than £21,000 with a team of 176 cyclists collectively covering over 2,500km.

And this month James and his friends are hosting a fundraising event at Bury Court to help nudge the total closer to that ambitious £500,000 mark.

James and his wife Lottie have gained the support of celebrities including David Beckham, Theo Walcott, Fearne Cotton and astronaut Tim Peake.

“We never expected to receive the response we did,” he said. “If this helps just one family going through something similar to mine, then I know it’s a job well done.”

Jill Douglas, chief executive of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, said James’ fundraising efforts were amazing. “Like Doddie, James is giving so much of his precious time to raise funds to hopefully put an end to this disease,” she said.

“It is because of people like James that we can continue to fund our vital research and clinical trials so we can finally find a cure.”

James’ wife Lottie and a team of their friends are training for the Leeds marathon in May.

Lottie said: “The emotions have been overwhelming, the fear, anger, resentment and grief on occasion knocking us so hard that we’ve felt it impossible to carry on.

“But I’m determined to be at the finish line with a few extra pounds raised for the foundation.”

n If you would like to make a donation to the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation please go to James’ JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/james-clarke79

“I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of friends and strangers alike,” said James of the fundraising he has completed. Half a million is within reach but how far can James go?

Anyone inspired by James’ story and would like to help him reach his goal of raising £500,00 can enter James’ Big Prize Draw. To enter, text STOPMND to 70191. Tickets are £10 each which will be added to your phone bill.

For terms and conditions see tinyurl.com/BRANCASTER). The prize draw closes at 10pm next Thursday (February 9)and the winners will be drawn and contacted the next day.

Prizes include a new Peloton bike; VIP tickets to see Blur in concert; VIP tickets to see Harry Styles in concert; a ski chalet long weekend; a locally-reared beef box; a case of champagne and a premium fourball golf experience.