Taking to the skies aged 86 to support MND research 

Yvonne Foster preparing to take flightFollowing her diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease back in September 2017, Yvonne Foster from Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, was determined not to allow this cruel disease to stop her raising funds for research into MND at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), based here at the University of Sheffield.

At the age of 86 she successfully completed a gliding challenge from Sutton Bank gliding club in March. When the weather prevented her first planned flight, she had a nervous wait until the following day to see if conditions would improve. Just when it looked as though the flight would have to be cancelled, the wind dropped and, at very short notice, Yvonne was able to put on all her warm gear take to the skies after all.

No stranger to the outdoors life, Yvonne was a swimming teacher for over 45 years, and enjoyed paragliding in Austria, parasailing in New Zealand, white-water rafting in Canada and, more locally, hot-air ballooning, rock climbing and abseiling in North Yorkshire. Only last year she went snorkelling off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia!

Now largely confined to a wheelchair due to the progressive nature of MND, Yvonne said of her gliding challenge:

“My aim is to raise money for this research project by flying in a glider off Sutton Bank (and back!) in North Yorkshire, a final farewell to an active life”.

And that is exactly what Yvonne did. Despite needing help getting into and out of the glider, she enjoyed her flight enormously and was even able to take the controls at one point. She said the flight was:

“a wonderful experience, I loved every moment – this is something I will never forget!”

Yvonne meets Debbie from our fundraising teamYvonne’s inspiring story has allowed her to raise over £18,000 to support MND research at SITraN, far beyond her original target. Dr Nick Verber, a member of the MND research team, and who is treating Yvonne, spoke of the impact of Yvonne’s fundraising:

“This very generous fundraising will contribute to cutting-edge translational medicine here at SITraN. This research aims to make discoveries in the laboratory which can then be used to design new trials and drugs. We also perform research exploring what it is like living with the condition. This helps doctors, nurses and therapists to provide the best, evidence-based care to those with MND.”

We are incredibly grateful to Yvonne for this wonderful gesture of support for MND research. Donations to support Yvonne’s challenge can still be made by visiting her Virgin Money Giving page.

If you would like to fundraise for SITraN or for other projects at the University, please visit our Community Fundraising web pages.

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