Family, friends and colleagues of a 38-year old dad-of-two from Halifax who died just months after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) are launching a new charity in his name.
Nick Smith died at Calderdale Royal Hospital on December 20 last year, 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. Known as ‘Smudger’ to his teammates, 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 by the Charity Commission.
It will have three aims, which are to support research into MND and look at how to improve support for those diagnosed and their families, support children who have had to face the death of a parent at a young age – as Nick and his sister faced aged six and four, and now Nick’s children have to face aged five and three, and support 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 – rugby league player and coach Johnny Lawless, schoolfriend Ryan Jepson and work colleague Sharon Lowrie.
Rachel has just completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks to raise money for the Charity alongside her work colleagues from Calderdale Council’s Public Health Team. Together, they raised over £2,500.
She said: “Nick was an amazing man. I cannot put into words how much I miss him. Every day is a challenge.
“But I want - and he would have wanted - for there to be a legacy from his death. That is why, after four months of planning, we are now launching a charity in his name.”
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, adding: “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, in Nick’s name, for Smudger.”
A launch event will be held at Shibden Park, Halifax, at the Mereside Centre on Friday, June 29.