The former Leeds Rhinos and England rugby league captain, Kevin Sinfield, is hopeful his fundraising efforts to support his former teammate Rob Burrow will not only provide him and his family with comfort as he lives with motor neurone disease, but also help discover a cure for the debilitating disease after raising more than £1m in just one week.
Sinfield has completed seven marathons in seven days to not only raise money for Burrow, who was diagnosed with MND last year, but also raise awareness of the disease. He had initially set a target of £77,777 – in homage to Burrow, who wore No 7 for Leeds throughout his career – but the total stood in excess of £1.2m by Monday lunchtime.
When asked what he hopes such a significant sum could do, Sinfield said: “We’re yet to see. The honest answer is I’m not sure, but when we set off in the car to see Doddie [Weir, who also has MND] last year, we talked about how we had a magic number to try and support Rob and his family.
“We wanted to make sure they were safe, supported and that Rob could be comforted that he didn’t have to worry about this kind of stuff moving forward, he just had to enjoy his family time. What the last week does is give him a chance to make sure that happens. That’s really important to me.”
Sinfield, who won every domestic honour in rugby league as a player, revealed completing the seven marathons was among his greatest achievements. “This is right at the top of the list,” he said. “To be able to make a difference like this is pretty special.”
Sinfield also spoke of his desire to try to find a cure for MND, and believed the seven-figure fundraising total could make a difference. “I’ve seen first-hand this week, speaking to people who have been affected by MND,” he said.
“It’s such a cruel disease, and hopefully these funds will help families and try to comfort them but ultimately, we’re here to find a cure. I’ve heard so many different stories this week about how horrific this disease is, but this money can make a huge difference. It will change a lot of things and hopefully raise awareness … but we need to find a cure, don’t we.”
Sinfield also attempted to play down the significance of his incredible achievement, before stressing his own personal fundraising efforts will not stop until a cure is found. “There’s a connection with MND for me now – I don’t think I’ll do anything quite as extreme as this again because I’m 40 now, but this won’t stop.
“One of our mates hit a rough patch and we’ve come out to help. The big message for me is sometimes you need to help a mate, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do. In its simplest terms, we’ve been on seven runs and that’s it. We’ve done seven runs to help a mate. I’m really proud of the team who’ve been involved – but I’m looking forward to getting in my ice bath.”