Rachel nominated for Yorkshire Choice Award

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We’re delighted to say Rachel has been nominated as Inspirational Individual of the Year in the Yorkshire Choice Awards 2019.

As well as spending the past year dealing with her grief and supporting Hadyn and Georgia through their loss, Rachel’s set up the charity and we’ve already raised tens of thousands of pounds for our three aims.

Stephen Naylor, Chair of The Nick Smith Foundation – and Rachel’s brother-in-law, said:

“Rachel certainly is inspirational so it is fitting she has been nominated for this award. The past year has been full of tears and torment, yet she has put so much effort into the charity and ensuring her beloved Nick has a lasting legacy.

“She will hate the attention, but I hope everyone across Calderdale will join with me in voting for Rachel so she knows how much she is loved and supported after the hardest 12 months imaginable.”

Votes for Rachel can be cast at https://www.yorkshirechoiceawards.co.uk/votehere until 1st March. The awards are handed out in April.

Busking for Smudger

Some of Nick’s friends are organising a night of music, beer and fun through Sowerby Bridge on Saturday, 1st December from 4pm until late to support us.

We would love you to join us at one or all of them to support them and support us. Here’s the timetable for the evening:

4pm – The Garden Bar at Gabriel’s
5pm – The Blind Pig
6pm – Bar Francisca
7pm – The Bull on the Bridge Hotel & Sowerby Taps
8pm – The Loose Goose

Thank you to all the pubs and bars who are letting us perform and fundraise.

Rachel completes the Great North Run

Nick’s wife Rachel, our charity Patron, has completed The Great North Run in a time of 2hours 31minutes.

An amazing achievement on the one year anniversary of Nick’s diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease and nine months after his death.

She was running alongside her friend Sarah who supported her throughout the 13.1 miles.

Ahead of the big day, Rachel was on BBC Radio Leeds and live on the BBC Look North sofa to talk about the race and the charity.

We’re so incredibly proud of Rachel.

You can still donate here >>

Smudger U7s Tournament at Siddal ARLFC

The first Smudger U7s Tournament has taken place at Siddal ARLFC today (Sunday 2 September) with over 70 children from four teams taking part.

Youngsters from Drighlington ARLFC, Illingworth ARLFC, Siddal ARLFC and Underbank Rangers came together for the event which will be held annually in memory of Nick. Each of the players received a ball, sponsored by ADD Express Ltd, and Smudger’s Top Tips. While Leeds Rhino’s legend Ronnie Rhino also joined us.

Parents, family and friends of the players, members of the Siddal rugby family and the wider rugby league community were at the event. As was Nick’s family – including his wife Rachel, children Hadyn and Georgia, mum Viv, sister Helen and grandparents Jim and Maura. Nick’s son Hadyn, aged six, was part of the event playing in the Siddal Tykes team.

One of our objectives as a charity is supporting amateur rugby league – it played such a significant part in Nick’s life from childhood to adulthood and we know that he would be both incredibly proud and humbled that an event such as this was taking place in his memory and his name.

Thank you to all the organisers of the event, all the children and families who took part and everyone else who supported it – by donating, buying cakes, drinks or sandwiches or simply being there #ForSmudger.

Rachel to take Nicks Great North Run place

The Great North Run have released the press release below about Rachel taking part in this year’s race:

A woman whose husband ran the Great North Run before being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease a year later is set to take on the half marathon in his memory after he tragically died from the condition aged just 38.

Rachel Smith, from Halifax, watched as her husband Nick crossed the Great North Run finish line in 2016, having completed his first half marathon.

Following his success, Nick signed up to take on the event the next year but deferred his place after he began to feel unwell, suffering from voice problems and feeling tired.

After he followed this up with tests, he was given the devastating diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease, which has no known cure.

Tragically, Nick, father to the couple’s two children Hadyn, six, and Georgia, three, passed away in December, 101 days after his diagnosis.

He was a talented rugby league player, joining the Leeds Rhinos Academy and Sheffield Eagles before captaining leading amateur side Siddal alongside a career as a management accountant.

Before Nick was diagnosed, the family didn’t know much about MND and after being given the awful news, they struggled with the lack of support that was available in their region.

After her husband’s death, Rachel and Nick’s brother-in-law Stephen, decided to set up a charity in Nick’s name to keep his memory alive, raise awareness of the condition and support the research going into finding a cure.

The Nick Smith Foundation has since gained registered charity status and Rachel decided a fitting tribute would be to run in Nick’s place. The event on Sunday 9 September will mark one year to the day of Nick’s diagnosis.

Rachel, 37, said: “Nothing will ever be able to take away the pain of Nick’s death, the months since his diagnosis and the weeks after he lost his short battle with Motor Neurone Disease were the hardest thing you could imagine.

“We had no idea what Motor Neurone Disease even was when he was diagnosed and didn’t know how hugely it would affect our family.

“Nick was fit and active and had always wanted to run a half marathon so we were so proud as we watched him cross the finish line of the Great North Run.

“Anyone who knew him was in no doubt of how fit and active he was. He really wanted to take part in the run again to beat his time.

“He spoke so highly of his experience and got a place in the ballot the next year. Then he started to feel unwell and then we got the devastating diagnosis.

“We want to do more to raise awareness about the disease, to support more research into finding a cure and also ensure there is more support for those diagnosed and their families as we felt we had no one to turn to for advice.

“From the day Nick got his diagnosis, time moved far too quickly.

“We never could have imagined that I would be without a husband and my children without their daddy just 101 days later.”

Rachel, who works in public health, is set to take on this year’s Simplyhealth Great North Run, supported by her friend Sarah.

The world’s biggest half marathon features 57,000 participants making the 13.1 mile journey from Newcastle to South Shields every year, whatever their pace or motivation.

Rachel added: “Through the charity I have a new focus as we’d like to look at what support there is for MND families who have young children, what could be done together with families to create memories.

“It really shouldn’t be me running the Simplyhealth Great North Run this year, it should be Nick and he should be smashing his previous time as he promised and I know he would do. But instead I have his place to honour him by running in his memory.

“I would in no way class myself as a keen runner but thankfully my friend Sarah will also be running alongside me on what is going to be a physically challenging and really emotional day.

“I will be carrying Nick with me in my heart to get me through the 13.1 miles and I am determined to do my best for him.”

You can sponsor Rachel here >>

Charity pledges to raise £50,000 for research into Motor Neurone Disease

We can announce that The Nick Smith Foundation is pledging to raise £50,000 in its first year for research into the condition.

Raising awareness of MND and improving the support available for those diagnosed and their families are two of the aims of our charity, which was formally launched at Shibden Park on Friday (29 June).

The launch event, attended by Nick’s wife Rachel – who is a Patron of the charity – and the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Calderdale, saw the charity’s Trustees outline more about their aims and ambitions and how they were going to achieve them.

Speaking at the launch – for the first time publicly since Nick died – Rachel said:

“I want to take this opportunity to send a very heartfelt thank you to all family, friends and others who have reached out to me and offered their support, words of comfort and love other the past six months, it has meant an awful lot to me, knowing you’re all there.

“I’m proud of this charity and proud it will have a lasting legacy for Nick. It’s a way of him still being a leader, still being extraordinary and still helping others out. Through the charity we want to remember Nick’s life and keep his spirit alive.”

Among the pledges was to raise £50,000 for the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience who are conducting pioneering work to find out more about MND and how to support those who are diagnosed. Two of the Institution’s researchers spoke at the launch.

The Institute’s founder is Professor Dame Pamela Shaw, who Nick saw shortly before his death:

“What happened to Nick illustrates why our work is so important and why the research teams in SITraN at the University of Sheffield are so determined to ensure that we do all we can to ensure that one day in the near future there is an effective treatment for MND and eventually, a cure.

“A heartfelt thank you to The Nick Smith Foundation for choosing to support SITraN and I can assure everyone who makes a donation to the Foundation that it will be used to make a real difference in the future to people and families faced with MND.”

Stephen Naylor, the charity’s Chair of Trustees, added:

“We need to know more and do more about Motor Neurone Disease – the cruellest of diseases which we still do not know enough about. The team in Sheffield are doing amazing work to change that and we are setting ourselves an ambitious target to support them in their work.

“We will need everyone’s help to raise the money but we know we can do it and we know how much difference it will make to helping smash the disease that took Nick from us.”

The charity’s other aims are to improve support on offer for children who suffer the death of a parent at a young age and encourage more young people to take up rugby league, a sport which Nick was passionate about having played and captained Siddal.

Nick had previously played for the Leeds Rhinos Academy alongside England and Great Britain international Kevin Sinfield who sent a video message for the launch. He said:

“I think it’s a fabulous charity and I support its aims. The passion of both Nick and myself for rugby has always been clear and to put something back into the sport will be an amazing legacy.”

Two rugby league ambassadors for the charity were also announced at the launch – Huddersfield Giants coach Chris Thorman and Giants Academy coach, and fellow Siddal legend, Luke Robinson. Luke said:

“Nick epitomised not only being a true gentleman but an exceptional captain and rugby player. I cannot think of a better way to honour his life and commitment to our club than a Foundation in his name.”

Doddie Weir, the Scottish rugby union legend who is living with MND after being diagnosed 18 months ago at the age of 46, also sent a message of support for the charity:

“When I first heard from Nick’s family, it really stopped me in my tracks. This devastating disease is indiscriminate and has such a terrible impact on the whole family – and Nick and Rachel’s story brought home to me just how important it is for us all to do what we can to help find a cure for MND.”

“I wish you all the very best with the Nick Smith Foundation – we are all working towards the same goals and with the combined energies of our supporters, we will continue to strive to make a difference.”

“Sport played a big part in Nick’s life and I have found the sporting community has come together in an amazing way to show its support for what we are trying to do. I have no doubt that the Nick Smith Foundation will make an important contribution to those affected by MND.”

Welcome to The Nick Smith Foundation

 

It was not long after Nick’s death that Rachel and I first discussed how we could remember the amazing man who was her husband and my wife’s brother. Nothing can take away the pain of losing him. Nothing can ever replace him. But we want to make a difference – in his memory, in his name.

How to achieve that was hard, knowing what to support was difficult. Nick was a man who meant so much to so many. He was an amazing father to two young children, a work colleague who could be depended upon day-in, day-out and a team mate who was every much a leader and warrior on the rugby field as he was a gentleman off it.

In deciding our objectives, we looked at the areas that influenced his life. Rugby league was a constant feature from a young age – at community level, at amateur level and at professional level. It seemed only fitting that one of our aims should revolve around that and encourage other young people who want to take it up and support the clubs who can deliver that.

Then there is the disease that took Nick from us – Motor Neurone Disease. The cruellest disease imaginable. It took just 101 days from Nick being diagnosed to him dying in hospital. A shockingly short amount of time, but enough time for us to understand there simply isn’t the research into MND to properly understand it – let alone treat it – nor the support available for those diagnosed, and their families, in the timeframe needed for what can be such a horrific, life-shortening condition.

Finally, there’s Nick’s lasting legacy. His children – Hadyn, who is five, and Georgia, who is now three. Nick’s death is incomprehensible to those of us who are adults, so how on earth are they meant to understand. They can’t, they shouldn’t have to. While we have been supporting them as much as we can, and I am personally so proud of them for how they are coping, it is important there is other support on offer for those children who lose a parent at a young age. It is one of the cruel coincidences – and there are so many cruelties in what has happened – that Nick and my wife Helen lost their own father when they were very young. He too was 38.

So, those are our three aims as a Charity:

  • We want there to be a better understanding of and support for those diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, and their families
  • We want there to be more support available for children who have to face the death of a parent at an early age – both for the children themselves and the surviving parent.
  • And, we want there always to be support and opportunities for people, especially young people, to get involved with community and amateur rugby league, in the same way that Nick did at the age of eight.

You can find more information about our aims and how we hope to achieve them through this website and we hope you will join us in supporting our activities.

Nick was much loved. He is much missed. He will be remembered, always.

Stephen Naylor
Chair of Trustees, The Nick Smith Foundation

Press Release: Ensuring a lasting legacy for Nick

Family, friends and colleagues of a 38-year old dad-of-two who died just months after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) are launching a new charity in his name.

Nick Smith, from Halifax in West Yorkshire, died at Calderdale Royal Hospital on 20 December 2017, just 101 days after being diagnosed with the condition. His funeral in January was attended by over 700 people who wanted to pay their respects.

Nick was married with two young children, who were aged five and two when he died. He was a legend of amateur rugby league having played with Siddal ARLFC since the age of eight and captaining the senior side in some of its most successful seasons. He also played for the Leeds Rhinos Academy and Sheffield Eagles before embarking on a career as a management accountant.

The charity – The Nick Smith Foundation – has now been formed and registered with the Charity Commission. It will have three aims:

  • Supporting research into MND and looking at how we can improve support for those diagnosed and their families.
  • Supporting children who have had to face the death of a parent at a young age – as Nick and his sister faced aged 6 and 4, and now Nick’s children have to face aged 5 and 2.
  • Supporting amateur rugby league which played such a significant part in Nick’s life from childhood to adulthood.

The organisation will be led by Nick’s wife, Rachel, and brother-in-law Stephen Naylor, who will work alongside fellow Trustees from different parts of Nick’s life – Johnny Lawless, Ryan Jepson and Sharon Lowrie.

Rachel said:

“Nothing can take away the pain of Nick’s death and the weeks since he lost his short battle with Motor Neurone Disease have been the hardest imaginable.

“This cruel, cruel disease which we know too little about robbed me of my husband, my children of their daddy and our family and friends of an amazing man.

“I want to ensure his name lives on and this charity will work tirelessly to research and provide support for those diagnosed with MND and their families, help children who have to face the death of a parent at a young age and support amateur rugby league which was important to Nick.”

Stephen Naylor will be the Charity’s Chair of Trustees. Married to Nick’s sister Helen, he’s determined to ensure Nick’s legacy lives on:

“In his 38 years, Nick made a huge impact on many people’s lives. As Trustees, we pledge to ensure his legacy is that Nick continues to have a huge impact on people’s lives. We are determined to make a difference. In Nick’s memory and in Nick’s name.”

More details about the Charity can be found on the website at www.nicksmithfoundation.org.uk