Retired Minister living with Motor Neurone Disease is set to raise money for charity with wheelchair egg and spoon race and 'mini marathons' near Warwick

He will be racing against his friend for the egg and spoon race

Monday, 29th March 2021, 10:11 am
Updated Monday, 29th March 2021, 10:14 am

A retired Methodist Minister living with Motor Neurone Disease from Hampton Magna near Warwick is set to raise vital funds for charity by competing in an egg and spoon race followed by a month-long walk.

Andy Laird, aged 65, who retired as a Methodist Minister in July 2018, is set to take part in the timed-trial egg and spoon race using his electric wheelchair around the estate where Andy lives, whilst his friend, Trevor Langley, aged 69, from Warwick, will race against him on an electric scooter.

Andy also plans to do a marathon of mini marathons - to walk 26 steps on each of 26 days in April – excluding Sundays, despite only being able to walk with the aid of a specially adapted wheelie walker.

Andy Laird is set to take part in the timed-trial egg and spoon race using his electric wheelchair. Photo supplied

The money raised will go tyoeards to Motor Neurone Disease Association

He said: “This latest stunt follows a challenge I undertook on the same date last year – a reverse triathlon on April Fools’ Day.

"I walked several laps of my garden, followed by a cycle ride on the exercise bike, followed by a shower. This event alone raised more than £9,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association."

“We’re really looking forward to the two challenges, but they’re going to be tough. MND is something that affects 5,000 people every year.

Andy Laird with his friend, Trevor Langley on their practice run for the event. Photo supplied

"Six new cases are diagnosed in the UK every week, and six people die from the condition each week.”

Trevor added: “Since his challenge last year, MND has taken its toll on Andy’s physical mobility and dexterity, but it hasn’t dampened his spirit to be positive and to fight back.

"That’s why these challenges are really important to him. And I am there to support him in any way I can.”

The rules of the egg and spoon race are that if the Cadbury’s Crème Egg is dropped, the chair must come to an immediate halt, and the race marshall will replace it in the spoon, before the chair can continue on its way.

The lap record in practice stands at three minutes over the one-lap course of 400 metres.

Andy and Trevor have had a dry-run of the course – Andy on his specially built electric wheelchair, and Trevor on a standard 4mph electric scooter.

The spoon is a large plastic kitchen spoon, strapped to a walking pole, carrying a Cadbury’s Crème Egg.

Andy will have the walking pole attached to his arm with velcro, since he does not have sufficient grip to hold it in his hand.

Andy’s bungalow has had to be specially adapted to meet his physical needs, including a walk-in wet-room, fully modified to enable him to shower and dry sitting down.

Andy’s wife, Ann, is now his full-time carer, having given up her work at Warwickshire County Council.

To date, since his diagnosis in the summer of 2019, through a whole variety of events, Andy’s fight-back fund has achieved £32,050.

Family and friends, former colleagues, and contacts through his church work, have been supportive – even though they can’t physically visit him because of shielding from Covid.

Over the last year, Andy has pre-recorded his voice on a special piece of software, supplied by the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

As speech becomes increasingly difficult, Andy will be able to communicate through the device, with the synthesised speech being in his own voice.

Andy has also signed up to various drug trials, in the hope that he can help others with MND in the future.

Using voice-activated software, Andy is recording his life-story, for his own family and future generations to know more about him – even though he cannot currently type or write it, he is dictating it to the laptop, and Trevor is editing and archiving it.

Trevor said: “Andy and I have been friends for over 30 years. We have been through a lot together over the years.

"We are like brothers. But when Andy told me about his diagnosis, I felt so shocked and concerned. I felt as if I had been beaten around the head with a garden spade.

"Our children were at the same school, and I used to teach Andy’s son, Chris, and daughter, Rebecca, at Woodloes School.”

Andy and Trevor first got talking around 1990, while watching their sons take part in a school sports event. They quickly realised how much they had in common, both being involved in local churches, both being musicians.

Before long, Trevor, who was Musical Director of Leamington Gang Show at the time, had Andy in the orchestra pit at the Royal Spa Centre, playing guitar.

This musical partnership has lasted down the years and taken them to many different venues and situations, including churches, open-air events, local theatres, and taking a Churches Together Musical on tour to Peterborough.

Andy said: “We meet up each month on Zoom during lockdown, with two other musician friends, for coffee and cake, and to share news. The guys keep an eye on how I am getting on.

"I have been shielding inside my home for the last twelve months, so this catch-up is a life-line.”

Andy’s music has been a major part of his life, particularly as a Minister, leading worship, taking school assemblies, and playing in bands, including “Into The Light,” which was formed by musicians from all over Warwick for inter-denominational Churches Together Services.

Sadly, MND has taken those abilities away. In fact, one of the first signs Andy noticed something was wrong, was when he was having difficulty getting chord shapes on his beloved guitar, and not being able to press down hard enough on the strings.

Although Andy and Trevor are part of the SingWell Community Choir on Woodloes in Warwick, rehearsals have had to cease since last March, and the choir meet on zoom to keep in touch.

They will be preparing for a 1940’s concert in St Mary’s Church scheduled for November, once they are allowed back to face-to-face rehearsals.

However, Andy is finding it increasingly difficult to sing and maintain any breath control, so even this prospect of doing the very thing he loves most, is becoming more difficult.

The egg and spoon race starts at 11.30am April 1 in Hampton Magna. Residents are being urged to stay on their own drives to witness the event.