David Merrick Goes the Extra Mile for the Rob Burrow Appeal

A former rugby league referee David Merrick who is a long-time friend of Rob Burrow has vowed to continue an epic swim challenge to smash a £10k target in aid…

David Merrick

A former rugby league referee David Merrick who is a long-time friend of Rob Burrow has vowed to continue an epic swim challenge to smash a £10k target in aid of Leeds Hospitals Charity and their MND Appeal.

David Merrick, 45, completed a 60-mile challenge swimming a mile-a-day, on Christmas Eve. It represented the distance from Pontefract to Old Trafford, a journey Rob Burrow frequently made during his career at Leeds Rhinos.

Merrick has raised a remarkable £9,500 smashing his original target of £7,000 but is now determined to continue until he reaches the £10k mark.

David said: “I will continue to swim and push my campaign online. Rob is an inspiration – his determination and strength on the rugby field reflects who he is in life. He has made a huge difference, raising awareness and funds on such an epic scale.”

David, who lives in Pontefract, was a neighbour to Rob Burrow for over a decade.

David said: “As an avid member of the rugby community, I followed Rob’s stellar career from our amateur club Featherstone Lions through to the Leeds Rhinos. It was around 2015 when we worked closely after I had booked to use his villa in Orlando and became good mates. His quickness and prowess on the field was a marvel to watch, so it hit me like a ton of bricks when he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.”

David played professional rugby league himself for Featherstone Rovers and Doncaster, before becoming a referee in 1999, with 12 years in the Rugby League championship. After both Rob and David retired from their respective careers, they met again playing together in charity games.

David’s family and friends and his local pub, the Bradley Arms in Featherstone, has supported his challenge. His employer, a glass bottle maker, Ardagh Glass in Knottingley, where he’s worked for 21 years, donated £1,000 to his campaign.

Other MND fundraisers have joined him on his swims, including Jude de Vos, who lost her son Jody to the disease. David travelled to Wigan to join Martin Clarke, who completed seven half Iron Man’s in seven days last December for the cause, to swim alongside him.

David has also been supported by the General Manager of Featherstone Rovers, Jac Davies, and Wayne Godwin, a Super Rugby League legend. Both pushed the challenge across their social media platforms. Social media support has been as far afield as South America, Australia and Canada.

David said: “Without their help, I would not have raised a quarter of what we have.”

Others to join David in the pool have been the Super league referee Ben Thaler, radio commentator Matt Horton, and Leeds Hospital manager Dave Goulding.

He was joined by the Burrow family for the last few lengths on Christmas Eve, with Macy, Maya and Jackson swimming alongside.

David added: “It’s an incredible community. We are all committed to helping to make the new Rob Burrow Centre for MND a reality. My challenge was the brain child of Jason Wilcox, a life guard at the Aspire facility in Pontefract Park, he gave me the initial idea and the centre gave it their full backing.”

NHS nurses at the Seacroft hospital in Leeds that currently cares for MND patients have said how desperately needed the new centre is.

Fiona Powell, a Neuro Physiotherapist, said: “To have somewhere that is actually clinically set up for patients would make so much difference, and make it less stressful for patients and less tiring, because fatigue is a massive problem for MND.”

Fundraisers from across Yorkshire have been running, swimming, hiking, raffling and auctioning to raise money for the Centre. The appeal has so far raised £1.5m.

Esther Wakeman, CEO of the Leeds Hospitals Charity, who works on the Appeal, said: “You don’t have to run seven marathons in seven days, fundraisers from all walks of life are backing the £5m appeal. Anyone can take part, from doing cake bakes to charity runs. We’re eternally grateful to David and this special community of supporters.”


Find out how to take part https://www.leedshospitalscharity.org.uk/pages/category/mnd-centre-appeal


Fiona Powell Neuro Physiotherapist

Corinne Spence, a Wheelchair Therapist


About Motor Neurone Disease


Motor neurone disease (MND) affects the nerves – called motor neurones – in the brain and spinal cord. MND is a life-shortening disease with no cure. Although the disease will progress, symptoms can be managed to help achieve the best possible quality of life.


With MND, messages from the motor neurones gradually stop reaching the muscles. This leads the muscles to weaken, stiffen and waste. MND can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe. Some people also experience changes to their thinking and behaviour. However, MND affects everyone differently. Not all symptoms will affect everyone, or in the same order. Symptoms also progress at varying speeds, which makes the course of the disease difficult to predict.


MND can affect adults of any age but is more likely to affect people over 50. There is a 1 in 300 risk of being diagnosed with MND. However, the prevalence of a disease is the number of people currently living with that condition. As the progression of MND can be rapid, fewer people are living with this disease than might be expected with a 1 in 300 risk. This means the prevalence is low, with up to 5,000 people living with MND in the UK at any one time. This is why MND is not seen as a common disease.


Source: MND Association


About Leeds Hospitals Charity 


Leeds Hospitals Charity is the charity for Leeds Teaching Hospitals. We support NHS staff to deliver the best care for patients and their families, by raising funds for equipment, services, education and research.


Leeds Hospitals Charity provides support for eight areas which include Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds Children’s Hospital, Leeds Cancer Centre, St James’s University Hospital, Chapel Allerton Hospital, Seacroft Hospital, Wharfdale Hospital and Leeds Dental Institute.


Leeds Hospitals Charity supports NHS staff to deliver the best care for over a million patients and their families each year. Working with local communities, schools and businesses across the city and beyond, each year we provide £5 million in additional funding for Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.


About Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust


Leeds Teaching Hospitals is one the largest and busiest acute hospital trusts in Europe. Every year Leeds Teaching Hospitals provides healthcare and specialist services for people from the city of Leeds, Yorkshire and the Humber and beyond.  We play an important role in the training and

education of medical, nursing and dental students, and are a centre of world-class research and pioneering new treatments.


Leeds Teaching Hospitals has a budget of £1.4 billion and employs around 20,000 people. Last year (2019/2020), the Trust provided over 1,645,000 treatments and episodes of care.


Our care and clinical expertise is delivered from seven hospitals on five sites, and they are all joined by our vision to be the best for specialist and integrated care.


Our staff helped to define the values and behaviours that we should work to, and this has become known as The Leeds Way. This forms the foundation of our culture, our ethos and how we work every day.