Ex-RAF engineer's challenge to help save Norwich therapy centre

Richard Leigh, from Sprowston, who will be walking a mile a day in his walker during the 2021 lockdown for the MS Therapy...

Richard Leigh, from Sprowston, who will be walking a mile a day in his walker during the 2021 lockdown for the MS Therapy Centre in Norwich. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

A former RAF radar engineer who has multiple sclerosis will be walking a mile a day during the coronavirus lockdown to help save a therapy centre.

Richard Leigh, 69, from Dovedales Court in Sprowston, hopes to raise £4,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Therapy Centre on Hurricane Way, Norwich, where he volunteers.

Mr Leigh was diagnosed with the lifelong condition, which affects the brain and nerves, in 1997 and has a permanent limp in his left leg.

Despite that, he undertook a similar challenge for the centre in the first lockdown in which he raised £10,000 by completing a mile a day for 85 days on North Walsham Road using his walker.

Mr Leigh said: "Because it doesn't look as though the lockdown will end until the end of March the centre needs £4,000 to stay solvent. It costs between £1,500 and £2,000 a month to stay afloat and we have lost 90pc of our income because of lockdown.

"We rely on donations but we are not getting anything at the moment. We cannot get any funding from the government. It is really bad. If lockdown goes on into April I'll have to keep on walking.

"If the centre wasn't here a lot of people would lose their independence and fitness. They would go downhill mentally."

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He will be following the same route he did last year and admitted it would not be easy.

Before the lockdown in March last year the centre was supporting around 350 people across East Anglia with various neurological conditions including Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease and MS, aged 16 to 70.

It is rented off Norwich City Council and offers counselling, physiotherapy, benefits advice, chiropody and chiropractic sessions.

It gets funding through renting its rooms out as well as holding quizzes, coffee mornings and a charity 5K and 10K run in Catton Park.

Paul Ray, centre manager, said that without furlough support for its three staff, the centre would have gone under, and it has lost out on £40,000 from general fundraisers and the same amount from room hire since last March.

Paul Ray, centre manager for the MS Therapy Centre in Norwich. 

Paul Ray, centre manager for the MS Therapy Centre in Norwich. - Credit: Paul Ray

A small amount of rooms are being rented by counsellors, under coronavirus health exemption rules, but the building is mostly unused in lockdown. 

"If we don't start opening up and raising money by April we are going to be in a serious situation," Mr Ray added.

To donate visit www.mstcn.org.uk