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04 Dec 2021

On the ball! Kilkenny club shares common goal - to Dribble for MND

‘All Paul Together’: Fun challenge kicks off fundraising for research into neurodegenerative diseases

Soccer players of all ages converged on a Kilkenny City pitch last Saturday — not just to kick a ball around but also to take part in a very special fundraising event.


Dribble for MND was held on the Fair Green pitch of Freebooters. From the youngest under-8 players right up to the adult coaches, everyone got on the ball to help raise money - covering almost 16km in all!

The Smith Family - Paul, James, Holly Mae and Natasha ALL PICTURES: Vicky Comerford

Click 'NEXT' above to see more photographs from Dribble for MND

Scroll down for links to the fundraising page


In Ireland 150 people are diagnosed with MND (motor neurone disease) every year. Last Saturday former Freebooters player and now underage coach, Paul Smith took on the challenge of dribbling a football the length of the pitch 150 times, in recognition of that number.


The fundraiser was an important one to Paul, who was diagnosed with MND last April. There is no cure for the disease. For half of all those diagnosed, life expectancy from diagnosis is less than three years. As Paul says: “the disease will gradually impact my ability to use my limbs, to be able to speak and in time potentially my ability to breathe unaided.”


He is already starting to feel the effects.
“Some of the smaller things are becoming increasingly difficult; cleaning my teeth, buttoning a shirt, tying my shoelaces,” he said. “The levels of exhaustion are beyond anything I have ever experienced, but in the main I am still able to lead a relatively normal life for the time being.”
A successful man in his 40s, with a beautiful, happy family and a job he loves, Paul’s world was turned on its head by the diagnosis.


Natasha, Paul’s wife, summed up the shock: “I don’t think I could ever put into words the feelings, the despair, the fear upon hearing that news on a Monday morning after dropping Holly and James to school,” she said.


“But since then and over the last few months the enormity of what this means for us as a family and the challenges Paul will face as this cruel disease takes hold is starting to become a reality. A reality we cannot hide or escape from but one we must meet head on by being brave together as a family and by allowing our family and friends to help in whatever way they can.”


It’s in that spirit that Dribble for MND came about. Paul is hoping to raise €20,000 from last Saturday’s event, of which at least 25% will be donated to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association, who have given Paul, and continue to give, tremendous support and advice. You can make a contribution on website https://www.gofundme.com /f/help-paul-fight-motor-neurone-disease


Of the money raised, 75% will go directly towards expensive drug treatments to help maintain his mobility, transport, specialist home care and the huge costs that Paul and his family will face in the near future.


Paul’s project is, however, much more ambitious than a one-day, fun fundraiser. Dribble for MND on Saturday was the launch event for the ‘All Paul Together’ movement.

In the light of his own diagnosis, Paul was still able to take a wider view of those in a similar position to him. He wants to raise money to fund research that will help all those with MND live the best life they can, for as long as they can.


Over the next 12 to 18 months groups in Paul’s network of friends and family, in Ireland and the UK, will hold fundraisers. As the community evolves Paul would like it to become a charity foundation. That will take some time to set up but, once it is, the foundation’s aim will be to fundraise to support research for people with neurodegenerative diseases.


The results of the research will help these people to take control of their own lives, Paul says. After his diagnosis he found very little information to advise him on a therapeutic approach in areas like work, nutrition, sleep and medication. Paul’s background is in sports science so he knows how important these things are to keep the body healthy. With the right information people with MND will be able to stay at work longer and have a better quality of life - ‘living’ with MND.


MND research is a hugely underfunded area, Paul says, and he hopes this foundation will also raise awareness of the disease and its effects.
He hopes, as the foundation grows, to get the backing of corporates.


For now Paul and his wife Natasha are focusing on getting the fundraising ball rolling. As a family they have to plan financially for the needs of Paul’s condition and, as he says himself, “the needs of my family, while I am alive and after I have gone.”


MND creates many new needs – housing facilities, transport arrangements, communication needs, medical and care. These costs are likely to be at their highest just as Paul’s ability to earn money will be at its lowest, as the disease takes hold.


“I cannot say for certain that I’ll be able to take the dog for a walk in six months time or be able to continue coaching my children’s football teams for the remainder of the current season,” he said. “Will I even be able to head out for a night out with Tash to help unwind from the daily stress of life? I simply don’t know and, in all honesty, struggle to look that far ahead.


“Time has suddenly taken on a whole new meaning. The area of life that I am grappling with the most, is the tension of using my limited time to focus on the people that are most important to me, and spending time on things I need to do to accommodate the change MND demands.”
If you are interested in holding a Dribble for MND fundraiser please contact Paul through his ‘All Paul Together’ https://www.all paultogether.com/

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