Tony Hopper’s inspirational work to help raise awareness and vital funds in the fight against motor neurone disease was saluted by charity bosses today.

They said the popular former footballer, who died on Tuesday night after a battle against bulbar-onset MND, will leave a “lasting legacy” for the way he went public with his condition and so inspired others to support the cause.

Shortly after confirming his diagnosis in January last year, Tony and his family joined forces with the MND Association to set up a “fightback fund”, intended to benefit the charity’s north and west Cumbria group.

The MND Association today told the News & Star that, because of Tony’s selfless decision to put his name to the cause, the campaign has raised an extraordinary £45,676.01 to help others in the county affected by the disease.

Kathryn Sheldon, regional fundraiser at the MND Association, said the charity could not thank Tony and his family enough for all they have done.

She also expressed their condolences to the Hopper family upon the news of his death.

“We are deeply saddened by the news and would like to send our deepest sympathy to Tony’s family,” she said.

“We cannot express enough gratitude to Tony and everyone who got behind him.

“The Tony Hopper Fightback Fund raised almost £46,000, leaving a lasting legacy that will continue to provide vital support for local people affected by MND and their families.

“We are incredibly grateful to Tony, his family, friends and everyone who supported him.”

The MND Association’s north and west Cumbria group holds regular support meetings, in Distington and Carlisle, to those in the area who have been diagnosed with MND.

They also host Christmas lunches, fundraising events, attend other events and support anyone setting up their own campaign.

They can also liaise with the charity at their central base at David Niven House in Northamptonshire.

Among the ways they can help is through grants, for example to young people whose family are affected by MND.

Specialist grants for unpaid carers, such as a wife or partner, can also be given.

Money raised can also be used to pay for certain goods for the home to help those with the disease,

Eric Tiffin, the north and west Cumbria group leader, said a number of people had got in touch with them in the weeks and months after Tony went public with his condition in early 2017.

That, he said, enabled them to offer help to people who may otherwise not have approached the charity.

Mr Tiffin said Tony’s willingness to lift the profile of MND was a hugely positive move for the cause.

Today he paid tribute to the former footballer and his family.

Mr Tiffin said: “Tony was a lovely young man and his family were all lovely people too, and my thoughts go out to them all.

“What they have raised, in terms of awareness for MND in such a short space of time, is tremendous.”

A number of Tony’s friends have embarked on big charity challenges since last January in a bid to support his cause.

Last year’s Gelt Gladiator event also selected the MND Association as their nominated charity in support of Tony, while this year’s inaugural Carlisle Half run, inspired by the former Carlisle player, supported Eden Valley Hospice, where Tony spent his final days.

His efforts were also recognised with a judges’ special award at last year’s Cumberland News Community Heroes Awards, when he received a standing ovation as brother Darren presented him with his accolade.

The audience was told: “There is no word other than hero which can be used to describe Tony Hopper. His bravery and openness has proven inspirational.”

The News & Star has highlighted Tony’s charity efforts with our "Fighting Back for Tony" campaign.

To donate to his fightback fund, visit