Richard Falconer died in March 2022 of motor neuron disease (MND), becoming the second member of his family to have their life cut short by MND, following the death of cousin Brian in 2017.
Now Richard’s brother, Stuart Falconer, is taking on an epic fundraiser to help raise funds for others affected by the disease.
Starting in East Lothian at 8am on Thursday June (30), Stuart’s ‘Fast4’ tennis challenge will finish in Orkney – the place Richard had called home since 1995 – at around 8pm on Sunday (July 3).
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Speaking about the inspiration behind the challenge, Pencaitland resident Stuart said: “Tennis has always been a favourite pastime of mine since I started playing at age ten, so when I was thinking of how I might be able to raise some money for MND Scotland, it made sense to try and factor it in.
“Although Richard wasn't really a tennis fan, in recent years he had started to enjoy a social game of ‘Touch Tennis’ with friends at his local sports centre, so that was another tennis connection.”
Fast4 Tennis is a format for playing tennis with modified rules that leads to shorter match times, a factor which Stuart hopes will help him to complete his trip on schedule.
Stuart continued: “I knew to raise money, it had to be a challenge that would catch people’s attention and considering we’ve just surpassed my initial fundraising target, I think the idea of playing 40 games in four days has managed to do that.”
MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles and this can cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided. Average life expectancy is just 18 months from diagnosis.
Richard first experienced symptoms of motor neuron disease (MND) when he began to feel breathless and soon after, began to also feel a loss of strength in his hands.
In August 2020, Richard received his MND diagnosis, having just retired at the age of 64.
As the disease progressed, Richard’s strength continued to deteriorate, with his regular walks with his dog and cycles becoming shorter, before stopping completely. He died less than two years from diagnosis.
Stuart said: “Richard had only just retired, and he was supposed to be starting a new chapter in his life, spending his time doing the things he enjoyed.
“Although he didn’t lose his ability to communicate until near the very end, he was a very practical person who loved being outdoors and to see MND strip him of his independence was very difficult.”
Rachel Maitland, MND Scotland’s CEO, said: “I am always inspired by the creative challenges people take on to raise money for MND Scotland and want to say a huge thank you to Stuart for taking on this unique feat.
“It's only because of people like Stuart that we're able to continue to provide essential support to everyone affected by MND and further the vital research that's taking us a step closer to a cure.”
You can support Stuart’s Fast4 fundraising journey by via https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fast4forty