Put your best foot forward and find a cure for MND

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Denise Hart, Les Gray and Pat O'Hara will be joining a fundraiser to find a cure for motor neurone disease. Picture: Les Smith
BEST FOOT FORWARD: Denise Hart, Les Gray and Pat O'Hara will be joining a fundraiser to find a cure for motor neurone disease. Picture: Les Smith

“It would be nice to just find some hint of a cure.”

Les Gray lost his mate Tasman O’Hara to motor neurone disease seven years ago, and for the past five years has put on a T-shirt emblazoned with “never give up” and taken part in the Wagga Walk to d’Feet Motor Neurone Disease.

He joins Mr O’Hara’s wife Pat and sister-in-law Denise Hart in walking alongside other Wagga residents who are doing their bit to find a cure for this illness.

“It's a very cruel illness.” Mrs O’Hara said.

“Right now in Wagga, there are families living with MND and they need support.”

Money raised from the walks goes to MND NSW and are split between funding research and providing practical support equipment for those with the illness.

“The support this organisation provides is wonderful,” Mrs O’Hara said.

“The practical support with equipment is very important for families living with MND.”

Mr O’Hara was diagnosed with MND – which is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease – in August 2009.

The first hint to Mr O’Hara that he had a problem was when he found he could no longer pronounce particular words.

FIGHTING HARD: Pat O'Hara, Denise Hart and Les Gray are among walkers raising money to fight motor neurone disease. Picture: Les Smith

FIGHTING HARD: Pat O'Hara, Denise Hart and Les Gray are among walkers raising money to fight motor neurone disease. Picture: Les Smith

The illness had initially targeted his throat and within three months, Mr O’Hara was no longer able to speak or eat or drink without assistance.

Mr Gray first suspected there was something wrong with his mate two weeks after they had been on a motorcycle ride together to Jingellic.

“I’d been watching him on that ride, and then two weeks later he’d been out again and told me he’d come off,” Mr Gray said.

“It was that quick.”

Mr O’Hara died in October 2010, just 14 months after his initial diagnosis.

“He didn’t get the chance to see his grandchildren,” Mrs O’Hara said.

In the years since her husband has died, Mrs O’Hara has noticed a substantial increase in awareness of MND.

"But there has also been an increase in the number of diagnoses,” she said.

For Mr Gray, the diagnosis of MND in his fellow “rev head” was difficult to accept.

"Until someone you know has it, it just doesn’t really hit you,” he said.

The 5.5-kilometre Wagga Walk to d’Feet MND will be held at Apex Park on Sunday, with South Wagga Rotary Club providing a sausage sizzle at the end of the event.

The walk starts at 9am, with participants starting to gather from about 8.30am.

To take part, register at www.mnd.asn.au

“There are families who support the walk every year who have lost loved ones – families from Griffith, Junee, Cootamundra and Wagga,” Mrs O’Hara said.