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Widower raises money for MS on 1800 mile walk in memory of wife

By Jean Gunn

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Gary Rushworth at John O'Groats.
Gary Rushworth at John O'Groats.

A Cumbrian man has walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats, finishing the second leg of a 1800 mile walk across the UK – a challenge in memory of his late wife raising vital funds for the MS Society.

Gary Rushworth, from Barrow-in-Furness, lost his wife Moira in February 2020, following complications related to her multiple sclerosis (MS). The loving husband arrived in John O’Groats on Friday, July 22 – 69 days after leaving Land’s End in May.

Gary, who has raised over £7000 so far, stopped at many locations that hold special memories for him along the route, including the place the couple got engaged and the church where they were married.

Commenting on his arrival in John O'Groats, he said: "At the finish I was cheered in by an MS, group this time from Caithness – though I was hugely surprised and overcome to be greeted by my sister Janet, brother-in-law Graham and niece Ruth, who had travelled up from Carlisle.

"Though the most emotional times were those when I felt in total isolation with Moira alongside me, particularly the beach at Sinclairs Bay in Caithness where we walked barefoot in the sand, hand in hand."

Gary Rushworth was surprised to be greeted by some of his family on his arrival at John O'Groats.
Gary Rushworth was surprised to be greeted by some of his family on his arrival at John O'Groats.

Gary, who turned 65 during this leg of his challenge, continued: "There are many, many memories that I will keep and cherish, particularly those times when I felt very close to Moira.

"I will also never forget my 65th birthday when I walked from the Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven via Rannoch Moor, Glencoe and the Devil’s Staircase in a gale force headwind and driving rain. Such events are, they say, character building. I just wished I had done it forty years ago!"

The next leg of the journey will take him from Carlisle to the east coast and back, ending on would have been his wife's 60th birthday, Sunday, September 25, in Longtown, Cumbria – Moira’s place of birth.

Gary added: "Moira was the inspiration for me taking on this challenge. All the wonderful people from the MS groups along the route reinforced that inspiration. Many told me what I was doing was inspiring, but their positive approach to life with MS made me ever more determined to achieve my goal.

"Moira and I both had a love for walking and it was one of the first loves that MS stole from her. There are currently very few treatment options for people living with progressive forms of MS and this meant Moira’s condition worsened over time, leading to extended periods of time in hospital and a weakened immune system."

Gary setting off from Land's End.
Gary setting off from Land's End.

He is raising money for Octopus, a revolutionary clinical trial that will transform the way treatments for progressive MS are tested and could deliver desperately needed new options up to three times faster. Recruitment for the trial will begin later this year.

To sponsor Gary and help stop MS visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/walking-for-multiple-sclerosis

Mark Haymes, community fundraising lead at the MS Society, said: "It’s been amazing to watch Gary’s journey all the way from the bottom to the very top of the UK. Along the way Gary has met with many members of our local groups to share his story and these meetings have been a great encouragement to him.

"More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK and there are tens of thousands with progressive forms who have nothing to stop their MS getting worse.

"The launch of Octopus is a crucial moment in our journey to stop MS, and funds raised from challenges like Gary’s will help to bring us one step closer to reaching that goal. We look forward to watching the rest of Gary’s epic challenge."

You can follow Gary’s walk on his Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/WalkingforMS – as well as on Instagram.

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