Hull Ionians remembers former team-mate with ‘awesome’ fundraiser

Published: Thursday 12th January 2017 by Tom Drinkall

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The family of a father of two who died of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) nearly 10 years ago have praised the “awesome achievement” of former rugby team-mates who raised more than £5,000 in his memory.

Simon Smith, who was just 38 when he died in April 2007, was remembered at the annual President’s Day organised by Hull Ionians and attended by representatives of Hull RUFC and Hullensians.

Activities including a lunch, a raffle and an auction of players’ shirts from the narrow win over Loughborough Students enabled the club to make a donation of £5,400 to the MND Hull and East Yorkshire Group, which raises money to provide equipment for people living with the disease.

Simon’s mother Kathy, his sister Sharon and his widow Sue all attended the day at Brantingham Park, Elloughton, the home of Hull Ionians, and expressed their gratitude to club President Peter Sharp.

Sharon said: “To raise so much money is an awesome achievement and much credit must go to Peter. I am especially pleased that his first President’s Day was a resounding success. The rugby family has always supported us well, no matter what the club colours or personal affiliations, and the kindness and generosity is once again overwhelming. The auctioning of the commemorative shirts was a particular fun element of the day, with many shirts achieving triple figure bids.

“Throughout his illness, Simon demonstrated his stubborn streak and an unwillingness to give in. The game itself was a tight affair and I’d like to think that Hull Ionians found some inspiration from the large numbers of spectators – maybe they had a secret 16th man on their side too! A fitting tribute to Simons’ memory was the tenacity shown as his former club defended their lead and remained resolute to achieve a victory on the day.”

President’s Day was introduced in 2014 by Trevor Stephenson, Peter’s predecessor. When Peter took over at the beginning of the current season he decided to dedicate the occasion to Simon and to raise money for the MND Association.

Simon played for Hull Ionians and for Hull RUFC and later coached at Hullensians. He was diagnosed with MND in January 2005 and continued coaching from his wheelchair and then by email. His book, Alive But Not Kicking, was typed using a button between his knees. It was published in 2011 in aid of the MND Association and Dove House Hospice.

Jacky Ellis, one of the volunteers at the MND Hull and East Yorkshire Group, said: “We had a wonderful day and it was obvious from the start that Peter and his team had put a lot of effort and forethought into this event. The day ran really well and we enjoyed explaining how our group works to several of the guests.

“It’s the thought of helping families in such a stressful situation that drives us on to help in any way we can and to keep raising much-needed funds. To raise more than £5,000 in just one day is amazing and it makes the event our second-largest fund-raiser in the whole year. It was obvious on the day that Simon had made a long lasting impression and that the club is like one big family.”

Peter said: “President’s Day has become firmly established in the Hull Ionians calendar and to say we were taken aback by the success this year is definitely an understatement.

“I can only be guided by the response that we received from Simon’s family and from the MND Association. They had a great day with us, they helped us raise a lot of money for a very important charity and they remembered Simon in the perfect way. We are enormously and eternally grateful to everyone who supported the event whether as sponsors, as lunch guests or by buying commemorative shirts or raffle tickets.”

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Published: Thursday 12th January 2017 by Tom Drinkall

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