A father-of-two with motor neurone disease (MND) described as an “inspiration” to others will deliver the match ball ahead of the Doddie Weir Cup clash in the Six Nations this weekend.
Mark Williams, 39, who was diagnosed with the condition 18 months ago, will take to the pitch in front of a full house at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday as Wales take on Scotland.
It will be the first time the match has been played in Wales since the Scottish rugby legend and MND campaigner’s death from the condition on November 26, 2022.
The match will also mark the climax of Doddie Aid 2024, the annual fundraiser for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, the charity Weir set up in 2017 to fund research into MND.
This year’s campaign has already raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the cause – all of which will help fund research into MND – with close to 20,000 fundraisers taking part.
Mr Williams, who lives in Abertillery, Wales, with wife Stephanie and their children Archie, eight, and Niamh, four, has been praised as a beacon of light for others as he refuses to be defined by the limitations and difficulties of the disease.
He continues to go regularly to the gym and recently climbed Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons, the highest peak in South Wales, in defiance of his doctors.
He is also the captain of the 380-strong Defiance Army League who have collectively clocked up nearly 35,000 miles.
Mr Williams has racked up more than 800 miles for Doddie Aid in the last two years and is now calling on everyone to dig deep for the final push.
He said: “It will be a massive honour to hand over the match ball for the Doddie Weir Cup, not only as a proud Welsh rugby fan, but as an ambassador for the importance of our continued fight against MND.
“Doddie Weir continues to be an inspiration to the whole MND community, showing everybody what’s possible even when facing this terrible disease.
“The only way we can all prevent people in future facing the same devastating diagnosis that I, Doddie, and everybody with MND and their families had to go through is to raise money for research. The more we raise the more chance there is of finding a cure.
“No matter who you are or whatever connection you have to this weekend’s game, please dig deep for Doddie Aid and help us move closer to a cure.”
Paul Thompson, director of fundraising at My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, said: “The Doddie Weir Cup is always a symbol of the special bond between these nations, and now a celebration of Doddie’s life and the impact his tireless campaigning continues to have.
“Mark is an ambassador for all those in the MND community, and his powerful words remind us all why research into this disease is so vital.
“Everybody can play their part in our pursuit of Doddie’s legacy – a world free of MND – by signing up for Doddie Aid even for these final few days. Every penny will make a difference.”
Scott Quinnell, the British and Irish Lion and captain of Team Wales for Doddie Aid, said: “Doddie Weir did so much for the MND community, using his profile and personality to raise millions for vital research.
“It’s now up to us to finish what he started and fundraise so we can find a cure and end MND.
“Mark is one of those who has picked up the baton. What he’s done already has been absolutely incredible and he is an inspiration.”
Doddie Aid is a five-week virtual mass-participation event which is the biggest fundraiser for My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.
Since it began in 2020, the event has raised more than £4 million for MND research as a result of more than 80,000 participants covering four million miles.
For more information on Doddie Aid 2024 and to find out how to get involved, visit doddieaid.com or download the Doddie Aid app.
Published: by Radio NewsHub