Family’s mountain challenge to raise funds for inspirational Chris

MND sufferer Chris O'Flaherty with Peter, Paula and Emily, who will be climbing Pen-y-ghent. Photo: Bill Smith

MND sufferer Chris O'Flaherty with Peter, Paula and Emily, who will be climbing Pen-y-ghent. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

A father and daughter are preparing to scale new heights to raise funds for motor neurone disease - with an ice bucket challenge already under their belts.

Peter Smith and Emily O’Flaherty will climb the Pen-y-Ghent in north Yorkshire in September to support son-in-law and husband Chris O’Flaherty’s MND fight.

The inspirational 37-year-old, of Wymondham, was diagnosed with the disease 11 years ago after watching it claim his mother and brother’s lives.

On Wednesday, Mrs O’Flaherty drenched herself in ice cold water as part of an internet craze to raise funds for the disease.

But the real challenge comes on September 19, when the duo will travel to Yorkshire to climb the mountain.

Mr Smith, 68, said: “Chris lost a big chunk of his family, and we are very fond of him. He has a great sense of humour and has always remained positive despite his situation, raising money for the cause. We like to do what we can to help.

“I am a bit nervous about it all, but it’s for a good cause and we do feel quite ready.”

Mr O’Flaherty’s older brother Richard was the first to be diagnosed with the disease and was in his 20s when he died around 12 years ago.

Their mother Patricia Birkett-Stubbs was later diagnosed and died about six years ago in her 50s. Both had an aggressive form of the disease.

Although Mr O’Flaherty enjoyed a normal childhood in the Loddon area, he was in his 20s when he first experienced problems with walking.

“When my brother was diagnosed he went downhill quite quickly and when he died I started showing the symptoms. I started limping a bit and I didn’t know why,” he said.

Although the MND diagnosis left him “pretty devastated”, he was determined to remain upbeat.

“I thought well I’ve got it now, I’ve got to get on with life really. I just kept fund-raising, I’ve taken money out of the MND pot and I want to put money back in so they can help other people with the same disease who can’t do anything,” he said.

In 2011 he took part in the Great North Run with the help of friend Simon Peck and businessman Ed Douglas Miller, of Channel 4 show Secret Millionaire.

Doctors predict that the “slow progresssing” strain of the disease, which his younger brother was also diagnosed with, means the outlook is positive.

Mrs O’Flaherty and Mr Smith will take on the challenge on September 19 and hope to raise £2,000, with all funds being donated to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

They will be joined by friend Paula Tilson, who will be climbing to raise funds for the East of England Air Ambulance.

• To donate, visit or text PAEC76 followed by an amount from £1 to £10 to 70070.

Do you have a Wymondham story for us? Contact reporter Lauren Cope on

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