58-year-old Ian Flatt from Green Hammerton, York, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2019. Ordinarily, the life expectancy for someone living with MND is two to three years, but Ian has defied the odds more than five years on from his diagnosis.

Sadly, many people who were diagnosed with MND around the same time as Ian have died of the condition and will not survive to see the doors of the new Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease open at Seacroft Hospital, part of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.  

Ian’s respiratory system has been severely weakened and he needs a ventilator for an average of 16 hours a day, he is wheelchair bound and relies on his wife Rachael to feed and care for him 24/7. Despite the progression of his illness, over the past three years Ian has completed four epic challenges for MND charities, raising over £45,000 since 2021.

Read More: Yorkshire man living with MND set to complete third 100-mile trek

This June, Ian is taking on his most difficult challenge yet, trekking up seven mountains across three countries in his off-road powered wheelchair, ‘the tangerine dream machine.’

Ian hopes to raise thousands for Leeds Hospitals Charity’s appeal to build the £6.8 million Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease in Leeds, he said:

“Now the concept designs of the new centre have been released, a lot of people assume that the fundraising for the appeal is complete. However, there is still £1.2 million left to make this centre a reality. Now, more than ever we need donations to help the charity make that final push over the finish line.

“We see and experience time and again how important it is to develop and improve care for families living with this disease. The Rob Burrow Centre for MND is a beacon of hope, a flagship centre which will provide transformative care and support for families regionally and ultimately nationally too."

Ian’s ‘7 Mountains, 3 Countries, 1 Goal’ challenge will begin on Saturday 15th June at Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales, the highest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. He will climb Snowdon on Global MND Awareness Day, after scaling peaks in Wales and Scotland. Ian will then return to Yorkshire for the final part of his challenge at the ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’ on the 7th July, coined Rob Burrow Day by Leeds Rhinos, reflecting Rob’s shirt number 7.

Find out more: 7 Mountains, 3 Countries, 1 Goal

Along his journey, dozens of friends, family and members of the MND community will join Ian and his support team helping him with the physical and emotional impact a challenge of this magnitude will present. Ian is hopeful that many others will be inspired by his challenge and will sign up to help him reach the top of these mountains.

Ian told us:

“Its not just the difficulty of navigating a wheelchair up a mountain, it’s the pressure on my breathing for the duration of both the ascent and descent that will take some managing. The rough terrain, coupled with the need for some real precise steering over boulders, obstacles and the ramps will test my driving arm. I’m hoping that I’ll have enough strength to drive the chair and pick my way through, over or around the obstacles without too many incidents.”

“Clearly this is much more difficult than anything we’ve attempted in the past, I’m not really sure whether I will be able to do it, but I do know that my friends, family and everyone volunteering to help will do their absolute best to get me through it.”

Read More: Ian and Rachael Flatt - our journey with MND

We spoke to Paul Watkins, Director of Fundraising at Leeds Hospitals Charity about Ian’s fundraising efforts:

“Ian has supported us since the appeal first launched in 2021, and has quite literally taken his fundraising efforts to new heights through his series of ‘what’s your mountain’ challenges. As well as raising a phenomenal amount to help us make the Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease a reality, Ian has inspired so many others in the MND community. We’re enormously proud of what Ian has achieved and he continues to amaze us with his tenacity. All of us at Leeds Hospitals Charity wish Ian all the best of luck ahead of his challenge!”

Craige Richardson, Estates and Facilities Executive Director for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is thankful for all the public support and said:

“The charity has done a great job with the fundraising to date and we’re at an exciting stage in the development now that the construction company is on board. The public has been extremely generous in supporting the charity fundraising and once planning is approved, people will start to see quick progress from our project teams as the MND centre plan is transformed into a reality for staff and patients. This is an exciting phase and we’re fully behind the charity in its final push to raise this last amount.”

You can support Ian by donating to his fundraising page here