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Bolton and Bradford staff join forces to help Stephen Darby

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Wanderers and Bradford City will join forces this summer to tackle the Pennines and raise funds for former player Stephen Darby.

Staff from both clubs and the Bolton Wanderers Community Trust will be lacing up their hiking boots in late July for a 65-mile trek between Valley Parade and Anfield, via the UniBol, in aid of the Darby Rimmer Motor Neurone Disease Foundation.

A massive £20,000 was raised by Phil Parkinson, Steve Parkin, Tim Breacker and Co last month as they cycled from coast to coast to give Darby’s new charity venture the perfect start.

Now media and communications officer, Luke Gallagher, a friend and colleague of Darby for several years, hopes he can add some cash towards vital research and support into the disease, which forced the defender to retire last season.

An arduous walk lies ahead but for Gallagher the chance to lend some support means a few blisters are a small price to pay.

“Darbs is just one of those people – it’s hard to imagine anyone in football has got a bad word to say about him,” he told The Bolton News.

“He started the same year as I did at Bradford and is obviously hugely respected by the fans over there because he was captain of the club and a huge part of the success they had under Phil Parkinson.

“The fans at Bolton maybe haven’t seen as much of him as a player but he has been a hugely influential figure in the dressing room.

“I have seen him three or four times since he was diagnosed with MND and he hasn’t been fazed by it one bit.

“When I started at Bolton I’d just been told I had bells palsy, which to those who don’t know is a facial nerve injury. “He had just been given his diagnosis when I met him at the Derby County game in the tunnel but before I could ask him how he was holding up, what I could do, Darbs was asking me how I was feeling.

“He’s always thinking about other people and at a time like that it’s unbelievable. He’s the nicest person I’ve met in seven years of working in football.”

Beginning at Bradford’s Northern Commercials Stadium the ‘Distance for Darbs’ party will head West across the Pennines and into Lancashire, reaching the UniBol in two days – 41 miles and 14-hours’ worth of walking.

Into the final day, the walkers will carry on their westward haul before eventually completing the ‘Distance for Darbs’ fundraiser by reaching Anfield, the famous home of Liverpool FC.

Training is about to get underway for Gallagher and his friends from either side of the hills and a JustGiving page has been set up with an initial target of £2,500.

“I need to get myself a decent pair of walking trainers first,” he said. “We’ll probably be doing some test runs on sections of the route to suss out the terrain. It’s a bit unpredictable on the Bradford side, with a lot of hills, but we’re not sure if that will improve the other side of Saddleworth and then towards Liverpool.

“I’m looking forward to it now. I did a bike ride from London to Amsterdam in aid of prostate cancer with the EFL in 2014 and I won’t lie, I fell awful when I was actually doing it. Only at the end do you feel like it’s all been worth it.

“With this one, it is more personal. Knowing Darbs and raising money specifically for what he is trying to do rather than a national organisation will make this more rewarding.

“I just hope people can help us and give what they can. The gaffer (Parkinson) has already raised a great chunk of money with his bike ride and if we can get near a quarter or a half of that total I’d be made up.”

Gallagher also hopes to do some collections at the upcoming friendly between Bradford and Liverpool at Valley Parade on July 14 – a fortnight before the planned walk sets off on the 28th.

To donate to the Darby Rimmer MND foundation visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/distance-for-darbs-fundraiser or for more information email lgallagher@bwfc.co.uk.

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