No one is loved more in the rugby community than Doddie Weir!
My friend Doddie
I was first told about Doddie’s diagnosis in January 2017 but refused to believe it. A few months later I was commentating at the Melrose 7s with the ‘big fella’ and was looking for the tell-tale signs of someone who had recently being diagnosed with MND. I couldn't spot anything but that all changed a month later when he called me. I knew the moment his name popped up on my phone why he was calling me and after a tearful conversation, I said I would do whatever it took to help and support Doddie and his family.
Melrose 7s 2017 – In the commentary box with Doddie
Doddie was having none of it. What he wanted to do was to help others and find a cure. He also wanted me to Chair his Foundation. By November that year we launched ‘My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’ on the very day Doddie famously walked onto Murrayfield with the match ball and his 3 boys prior to the Scotland v New Zealand rugby international.
Since then the foundation has gone from strength to strength but the catalyst to all this activity is Doddie himself. No once is loved more in the rugby world than Doddie Weir. Why is this you may ask? Well I believe his personality shines through in everything he does. His attitude to help others in infectious. His lovely smile, his demeanour, his zest for life and self deprecating humour endears him to others. He is a gentle tartan clad giant and we all love him to bits!
Last Saturday he celebrated his 50th birthday and what a celebration he had. It was a busy day as he appeared on BBC’s Breakfast programme early in the morning. Prior to that interview, he had jumped on his bike to support Peter Winterbottom’s, ‘Doddie5 Virtual Cycle Ride.’ Over 250 people took part and those that were unable to ride on the Zwift virtual platform took to the roads.
Behind all this activity was another former rugby International who has helped the foundation manage its numerous promotions and commercial activity. Kenny Logan and the team at Logan International managed our social media campaign that engaged with thousands of supporters in wishing Doddie a happy 50th birthday. Many, who posted videos, were famous faces from the world of sport and they lifted a glass in celebration and encouraged followers to donate £5 to the foundation. This campaign coupled with Peter’s Doddie5 Virtual ride, has raised over £100K. What an amazing total and the majority of that was within 24 hours!
Doddie's 50th Birthday social media campaign raised over £100K for My Name'5 Doddie Foundation
Doddie has been an absolute inspiration in raising the profile of MND and this effort was recognised last year at the World Rugby Awards and in the Queen’s New Year Honours list, where he was awarded an OBE for his services to rugby and MND.
For me, the most amazing occasion was at the BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year back in December when he accepted the Helen Rawlinson Award. It is presented to someone, ‘for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity’, and when 20,000 attendees rose in the P&J Live arena in Aberdeen to give him a standing ovation there were millions watching at home who were equally moved.
Over the years the Foundation has benefited greatly from an amazing range of fundraising activities in support of Doddie, including the Waterboys invitational rugby squad, bake sales, quiz nights, golf days, sheep & tractor sales and numerous cycling events including The Great Rugby Cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End involving around 40 cyclists; the Doddie 500 cycle ride in which Rob Wainwright and Mark Beaumont rode from Murrayfield to Twickenham in 48 hours carrying the match ball for the Calcutta Cup and the Noodle Bagz fundraiser at the Las Vegas Sevens tournament where an international team of rugby greats played an exhibition game in 'Doddie tartan budgie smugglers!"
The Scottish and Welsh rugby unions continue to support the Foundation and a cheque for £150,000 was handed to Doddie at the 2nd Doddie Weir Cup match during last year’s 6 Nations. Unfortunately this year’s match was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic but signs are looking good that this might be played this coming October. Fingers crossed.
The Foundation has partnered with a number of organisations over the last year and a half including the European rugby finals in Newcastle in May 2019 as the official charity partner and we were delighted to be back in Hong Kong during the week of the 7s, for the Greatest Ever Rugby Dinner. Sir Billy and Dame Pamela Connolly attended along with a host of international and sporting celebrities and we are indebted to Martin Murray and the Hong Kong rugby community for their wonderful support.
The Greatest Rugby Dinner Ever – Hong Kong 2019
The purpose of all of these activities is to raise money to invest in research and support patients. The Foundation has given £750,000 to the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) and MND Scotland to provide grants for people affected by MND; for example to fund house adaptations to allow people to continue to live at home and to provide respite care.
The feedback that we receive from those that receive these grants reminds us all how Doddie has made a difference in his quest to support others who suffer from MND. He continues to inspire us all and whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all Doddie continues to help others. He announced at the start of the lock-down period in April that he would support sufferers of MND and their families with an additional £100K of emergency funding. This gesture is so typical of the man!
Not a day goes by when the name of Doddie Weir is not mentioned. He is a great friend, a wonderful inspiration and together, I hope that one day with your support we will find a cure for MND.
Happy 50th birthday Doddie and here’s to many more!