Walking for my late wife Moira

Wed 01 May 2024

Gary Rushworth

Gary has raised an incredible £31,000 for us by taking on walking challenges in memory of his late wife. He tells us about his 1,800 miles in 100 days fundraiser and how he found support, strength and connection along the way.

I met Moira in 1984, we married in 1987 and we had two daughters. At 39, Moira was diagnosed with primary progressive MS, which later became secondary progressive. The first thing impacted was Moira’s mobility, which eventually led to her needing a wheelchair. 

Her deterioration in mobility, coupled with an immune deficiency, meant Moira was prone to infection. I gave up my job to become a fulltime carer for Moira, run our home and support our daughters.

From 2017, Moira was in and out of hospital. On 23 February 2020, Moira had two seizures. She was rushed to hospital and devastatingly never regained consciousness. She died with family at her bedside the following day.

Honouring Moira

It was because of Moira, I started volunteering for the Furness MS Group in 2014 as their Health and Safety Officer. I also began walking challenges in Moira’s honour. Fell-walking has always been my passion, which I introduced Moira to. To date I’ve raised over £31,000 for the MS Society. 

In 2022, I set myself a challenge to walk 1,800 miles in 100 days. In that year, Moira would have been 60, I 65, and we’d have been married 35 years. I planned a route starting where we first met and visiting all the places of significance in our life together. Like our first date, first meal out, the place we got engaged, where we were married and finishing at Moira’s birthplace on her sixtieth birthday. 

It was love, inspired by my wife’s courage, that motivated me to do it.

I wanted to raise awareness of MS, those affected by it, the work of the MS Society and the need to raise funds for research programs, particularly the MS Society funded Octopus Project.

Due to the generosity of family and friends and people I met along the way, the walk raised £10,474. And, in memory of one of their own, the Furness Group contributed a further £10,000. Making it a grand total of £20,474.

Finding support, strength and connection along the way

I completed a lot of training walks to build-up stamina and the ability to cover 20 miles a day with a 10kg rucksack over arduous terrain. When it came to the walk itself, the terrain, landscape, scenery and weather were constantly changing. Most days I would walk alone, though there were occasions when family or friends would join me or cheer me on.

I got a lot of support from MS Society volunteers and staff along the way. It was hugely inspiring to meet over a dozen groups and scores of volunteers. And I’m especially grateful to those who provided board and lodging!

I am a Christian, and I would regularly feel closer to God and connected to Moira, particularly on moor top walks. Whether it was feeling her hand in mine when I reached out for her. Or God’s guiding hand bringing me through the eye of a storm, to safety.

The walk was much more than I’d hoped for. Total strangers felt like life-long friends after a few minutes' conversation. So many people I met had experience of MS or bereavement that we were able to share with each other.

I’m proud of what was achieved in Moira's memory

I was given an Impact Award for completing the challenge. It was humbling to be recognised. As I listened to what the other nominees had achieved, many of them in adversity as they lived with MS, I felt unworthy. It’s now with added poignancy that I remember the night having had my achievement announced by the late Dave Myers. It will be something I will never forget.

For me it is not about awards and personal recognition. It was a privilege for me to do something I love, in memory of my brave and beautiful wife, for a cause close to my heart. I’m proud of what was achieved in Moira's memory, for without Moira none of it would have happened.

I won’t stop now

This year I’d started a walking challenge of 130,000 steps a week, for the 130,000 living with MS in the UK – to raise awareness and funds for MS Research. But a new study has revealed there are now over 150,000 people living with MS in the UK. So I've increased the number of steps to 150,000 a week. I have a just giving page and a Facebook page.

Visit Gary's JustGiving page

Visit Gary's Facebook page

I also have some other fundraising walks in the pipeline!

I met so many inspirational people on my trip who are so positive and full of hope whilst facing adversity, you can only be full of admiration for them. The more people who get involved and support the MS Society, the quicker we reach the goal of stopping MS.