Total Warrior: Leeds schoolgirl competing for Rob Burrow Centre for MND after grandad's 'devastating' diagnosis
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Isabella Roberts, from West Park, will be taking on the 3K course packed with obstacles at Total Warrior on Saturday, July 1 at Bramham Park to raise money for the Leeds Hospitals Charity to help fund its new Rob Burrow Centre for MND.
It comes after her grandad Stephen Welsh, 64, was diagnosed with MND in January 2023.
After finding out about his diagnosis, Isabella dedicated time to learning about the disease herself – scouring the web and finding websites like MND Buddies for children and reading books MND Association sent out to her.
Her mum, Sarah Roberts, said seeing the deteriorating nature of the disease impacting Stephen had been hard for the family.
She said: “It’s difficult watching his body change and watching him change, but just fighting for the things that we need [is hard] – and sometimes there is a real fight to get things that we needed.
"The house adapting and we’re currently going through that but things like that is really frustrating. Trying to make memories, trying to do all these nice things, but you spent a lot of time on the phone chasing people."
Isabella said the changes she has seen her grandad go through have made her even more determined to raise awareness about the disease. The youngster has held talks at her primary school educating other children and participated in a number of runs for the cause, including the junior run at the Leeds 10K earlier this month, held on Father’s Day, which Rob Burrow and his family also took part in.
Mum Sarah said that the lack of windows and the distance patients have to travel to access services at the current MND Care Centre, in Seacroft, where Stephen is being treated, underlined the need for a new facility. However, she praised the care provided at the current centre.
“We have zero complaints,” she said.
"The NHS is so stretched, but my gosh, do we have an amazing team in Leeds. Dr Jung [consultant neurologist and MND specialist] is amazing, the palliative consultants are amazing, the occupational therapists are amazing – everyone that we have encountered. It's all as a result of the money that's been raised locally. I think if we were living in any other place in the country, we wouldn't have the support that we have.”
A nurse at the hospital even came to see Isabella and brought her a top to wear during the challenge, Sarah said.
The youngster has raised £2,215 so far, from an initial target of £777 for Leeds Hospitals Charity’s appeal.
And said she was excited to be taking part in the mud run and to raise awareness for MND.
“I like to think I have,” Isabella, who plans to continue fundraising after the run, said.
Mum Sarah said: “[MND] is a club that nobody wants to be part of, but it's an amazing club. The community is incredible. The support that we've had from people within the community and actually externally is really unbelievable.
"I think that's through a combination of factors. The fact that you know that Rob Burrow is local, and he's raised all this awareness.
“Five years ago, nobody would have known what it was. But now, we say to people: ‘He's got MND’ and people understand. We've seen the best in humankind over the last six months, but it's still devastating. It's still really hard."
To find out more about Isabella’s fundraising, or to donate towards the appeal, visit the JustGiving page.