A team of pool players from Walkden’s 147 Snooker and Pool Club are swapping their cues for cars this month when they take on a three-day race through Europe to raise money for 11-month-old Isla Rae O’Gorman.
Scott Thompson, 41, James Fitton, 41, Paul Hobson, 40, and Matt Anderson, 40, are set to embark on the ‘Thundercrawl’ rally to raise funds for Scott’s niece Isla Rae, who is living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT).
The four mates will travel by boat from Dover to Calais, then drive their beaten-up banger through the French, Swiss, and Italian countryside to finish near Venice on Sunday 4 September.
The team aim to raise over £5,000 to help Isla Rae’s family with a lifetime of medical bills.
Isla Rae was initially diagnosed with the genetic Turner syndrome at birth, then later diagnosed with CMT.
CMT will permanently damage Isla’s central nervous system, making it difficult for her to complete basic everyday tasks, as well as inflicting life-long chronic pain.
“You can tell that, even at such a young age, there are things which frustrate her because there are many activities she is unable to do which perhaps her brother and sister can,” uncle Scott explains.
“The NHS does what it can, but there will be hurdles in [Isla’s] life which she will need extra support with.
“Even though she is only one, we have all been blown away by her.
“She doesn’t seem to be letting the condition get in her way, and even though there are things physically stopping her, Isla is trying her best to do things which will always be difficult for her”.
Despite Isla’s brother and sister being tested at birth for Turner syndrome, they must now undergo another set of tests to establish if Ethan, 7, and Indie, 4, are also carriers of CMT.
Depending on the severity of the disease, which will likely be determined around the age of five, Isla will need a lifetime of financial support to accommodate her condition.
After Isla was born, the young girl was sent to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital where she underwent treatment for her condition.
Now she’s being cared for by the doctors and nurses at Royal Bolton Hospital.
Isla Rae’s mother, Steph, has explained how staff have been “really helpful and explained everything in great detail, so that we understand fully Isla’s condition.”
Scott says the family have been impressed by the level of care but “the NHS is so stretched…what the NHS can provide in comparison to what additional funding can afford are poles apart.
“As a family, we are seeing which things we can put into place to help her overcome the hurdles she will face in her life.”
Mum Steph is already sadly aware of the terrible effects neurological conditions inflict, since losing her first-born child, Ellie Mai to meningitis weeks after birth.
She said: “I’m amazed that they have all offered to do this for Isla Rae.
“Some of the people who are doing this event or who have donated already haven’t even met me or Isla, you don’t realise what support you have until it is really needed.
“Me and her dad are so shocked the fact of how much people want to help and how big of a difference it will make to Isla’s life.”
In order to reach their £5,678 target, the Walkden team will be touring in a £200 1998 VW Passat – which has racked up over 230,000 miles on the clock.
Not only that, but they’ll film the whole adventure using head-mounted cameras.
“All these ideas look great on paper, but we will probably break down in Birmingham,” jokes Scott.
The guys have played in a pool team of 12 for four years, and say they’ve never once had a fall out.
They’ll travel in a convoy of 55 cars and this year’s Thundercrawl event has adopted a James Bond theme.
Scott, James, Paul and Matt graffiti’d their banger with a design inspired by 1965 007 adventure Thunderball, and even say they’ll complete the tour dressed as Bond villains.
At the end of the course, the team which earns the most points will receive a cash prize and the Thundercrawl trophy.
Scott said: “This event will be a stepping stone, this is our gesture, and if people improve on our gesture and make it bigger and bolder there will always be something going on.”
“When Isla is old enough to understand what has happened, I think she will be quite touched to see what her family and friends have done.”
In addition to the Thundercrawl, family, friends and all the guys at Club 147 have organised ‘An Evening for Isla’ at the Manchester Road venue from 7.30pm on Saturday 17 September.
For tickets call 0161 790 4564.
Club owner Paul Odee – known affectionately to friends as Pod – has let the venue free of charge.
Scott said: “All I can say is how proud I am of everyone for everything they’re doing, not just the lads on the Thundercrawl, but also those people who are involved in the fundraiser night.”
“I personally feel humbled by everyone’s efforts for Isla; I can’t find the words to thank them enough.”
If you want to sponsor the team, visit Isla Rae’s CMT Fund for more details.
The Thundercrawl tour starts Friday 2 September around 9am in Reims, France, and ends near Venice on Sunday 4 September.