How muddy marvels at this year's Gelt Gladiator can support Tony Hopper's motor neurone disease campaign

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People tackling one of Cumbria's most renowned endurance events can also do so knowing they will be helping a great cause - Tony Hopper's motor neurone disease Fightback Fund.

Former footballer Tony's campaign to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association is now being officially supported by organisers of this year's Gelt Gladiator.

The MND Association has been chosen as the event's nominated charity for 2017.

It will enable competitors in the muddy challenge - which takes place in Gelt Woods near Brampton - to help make a real difference to people affected by the disease in north and west Cumbria.

Organiser Mike James explained the decision to support Brampton-based Tony's cause.

"I've known Tony for years," he said.

"We are a similar age - although he was always better at football than me, so we were never in the same team.

"But he is someone I have got to know over the years and the decision was really made for me when I was at the Carlisle United match [against Portsmouth last month] when he did the half-time draw.

"It touched me so much that I wanted to do something.

"On the back of that I got in touch with Susan, his wife, and she said they would be happy for us to do this.

"She also put me in touch with the MND Association and it's something we are really pleased to be pushing on with."

As part of Gelt Gladiator's support of the charity, they will donate £5 from the entry fee for anyone raising money for the MND Association at the June event.

That is on top of the sponsorship funds those people will already be raising for the MND Association.

Mr James said that anyone registering to take part in the event will also be offered information about the charity and how they can help raise money.

And he plans to contact the 1,500 people who have already entered, to explain the Fightback Fund and offer the opportunity to raise more funds in Tony's name.

The MND Association can also send entrants a sponsor pack and form.

Mr James added: "Tony's story has touched so many people and this is an event happening on their doorstep.

"Hopefully it will help raise awareness, along with as much money as possible - the more people who get involved the merrier."

Money raised by Tony's Fightback Fund will go to the MND Association's north and west Cumbria group, which helps people in this area who are affected by the disease.

The group can help to fund equipment and services for people with MND and their families, and other contributions that can help their quality of life.

Former Carlisle United and Workington Reds player Tony, 40, was diagnosed with the life-limiting illness in January.

Kathryn Sheldon, the MND Association's regional fundraiser for the north of England, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be the official charity partner of Gelt Gladiator 2017 - let's raise as much as we can for Tony's Fightback Fund and beat this devastating disease once and for all."

Gelt Gladiator takes place on June 10-11, with a 10km challenge and a more extreme 10-mile test on the first day, and a 6km challenge the following day as well as a 3km fun run which is described as ideal for families, including children aged six and upwards.

Mr James urged anyone interested to register before the end of the month to take advantage of cheaper entry prices.

For more information visit http://www.geltgladiator.com/charity2017, while entry details, plus information about the MND Association, are also available on the website.

The News & Star are also backing the Hoppers' charity efforts with our Fighting Back for Tony campaign.

To donate directly to their campaign, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Tony-Hopper

Anyone planning their own fundraising events can visit http://www.mndassociation.org/get-involved/fundraising/doyourownthing/ and mention Tony Hopper's Fightback Fund.

Anyone affected by motor neurone disease can contact the MND Association for support through Sue Muller, regional care development adviser for Lancashire and Cumbria, on 0345 3751841 or 07876575029, email sue.muller@mndassociation.org

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