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Ex-rugby league player Rob Burrow has begun spearheading a £5 million charity appeal to build a new motor neurone disease (MND) centre in Leeds.
The former Leeds Rhinos player was diagnosed with the neurological disorder last year at the age of 37, and he has since campaigned to raise the profile of the condition.
He and his family are now helping Leeds Hospitals Charity, where he has received care, fundraise to pay for a state-of-the-art purpose-built care centre for those with MND living in and around the city.
Mr Burrow said he hopes the centre will be a “calming and tranquil sanctuary”.
He said: “I envisage a beautiful, welcoming building that is user and family friendly.
“A place where patients feel comfortable to bring family members into a safe and homely environment for them, with signs of hope and optimism.
“For carers of those with MND it is important to know that their loved ones are in the best possible place.
“Something every MND sufferer and their families deserve.
“Although the news won’t be any better, it will be easier to come to terms with in a purposely built care centre that meets the needs of every MND patient.
“Imprisoned in the brutality of MND, my vision is that people diagnosed with MND hear the news in a calming and tranquil sanctuary,” he added.
His former club, where Mr Burrow played professionally for 16 years, has been the first to donate, pledging £50,000.
The current MND centre based in Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, Seacroft Hospital, treats around 80 people, double the number of people the service supported 10 years ago.
Built in the early 20th century, the centre is located on a busy multi-purpose ward without the ability to be fitted with the latest equipment and facilities for those who are physically impaired.
The centre is featured in Mr Burrow’s autobiography, the audiobook for which was voiced by his close friend actor Matthew Lewis, best known for his role as Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter film series.
Mr Lewis said: “It’s so typical of Rob that he is thinking about other people and planning on how he can improve the quality of life for others.
“His friends, family and teammates always knew he had their back and now people who may be diagnosed with this terrible illness in the future can be sure he’s looking out for them as well.
“What a guy.”
His BBC documentary, which has been shortlisted for a Television Award for which the winner is due to be announced on Thursday, was filmed at Seacroft.
Once completed, the Rob Burrow Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Care Centre, will house all MND services under one roof for the first time giving patients access to a range of holistic support, from speech and language therapy, to diet and nutrition advice, and physiotherapy.
Esther Wakeman, chief executive of Leeds Hospitals Charity, said: “We recognised the need for a dedicated centre in Leeds, which we know will make a huge difference to many affected by this cruel disease.
“I can envisage our centre becoming a flagship in the UK and I hope that this will inspire others to replicate this up and down the country, offering thousands of MND sufferers the best quality of life and help us get closer to finding a cure one day.”
To donate to the appeal visit: https://www.leedshospitalscharity.org.uk/pages/category/mnd-centre-appeal