Tireless fundraiser Neil Wightman has been named Charitable Person of the Year at the RailStaff Awards for conquering a colossal charity challenge.
Since his dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease several years ago, Neil, of Kirkintilloch, has been raising as much money as possible for research into the condition which currently has no cure.
Across the UK, 145,000 people have Parkinson’s – 12,200 of them in Scotland – and every hour, at least two more are told they have the degenerative neurological condition.
Neil, a Network Rail track quality supervisor, had already been taking part in tough cross-country events, raising money for various charities, but he decided to “go bigger” for 2018.
By the end of this year, the 38-year-old will have taken on nine Tough Mudders, two Tartan Warriors, two MacTuffs, a Badass Mucker and a Winter Wolf run, as well as several other walking and running events – one of which was the Glencoe Challenge, a 26-mile walk through the Scottish mountains.
Neil’s first target was to raise £1000 for Parkinson’s UK. However, he’s now reached £4500 and that figure is still climbing.
Neil said: “I’ve just been blown by the amount of support I’ve had. It’s just been phenomenal.
“Originally, I was just going to do the Tough Mudder series, which lasts about six months.
“But, when I started looking at it, I decided to do a bit more, so I’m now at 20 events.”
Neil’s family have been supporting him all the way and his young daughter Abbie, helped by her mum and gran, organised a stall at her primary school’s Christmas fayre. She decided to donate all the money to Parkinson’s.
Neil said: “She’s such a wee star!”
Tyler LeMay, managing director of awards sponsor Land Sheriffs, presented Neil with his trophy at the RailStaff Awards.
He said: “I think it’s important that people choose something close to their heart, something they believe in and something they really can make a difference with.
“Our staff do lots of charitable things through the year. We chose this award to sponsor because of that.
“To be able to recognise people like Neil, who do the things they do, I think it’s commendable.”
The nomination for the award came from Parkinson’s UK regional fundraiser Jan Mattison.
She said: “Neil’s been a star for Parkinson’s UK this year. Not only has he raised so much money but his exploits have really helped raise awareness of the charity too.
“Big thanks to Neil and to all his family and friends who have been so supportive and got involved in the huge number of events he’s taken part in.”
Neil said: “I still can’t believe I won. My wife Clair and I had a fantastic night and thoroughly enjoyed representing Parkinson’s and Network Rail.”
The RailStaff Awards, now in its 12th year, were held a week ago at Birmingham’s NEC to celebrate the achievements of individuals and teams who work in the rail sector.
Tom O’Connor, managing director of event organiser Rail Media, said: “The RailStaff Awards is not only our biggest night of the year, it’s also our favourite – a spectacle with no shortage of inspiring characters.
“We must thank our sponsors for making the night possible and the hundreds of guests who attended for such a memorable evening.”
Neil’s dad Bert also worked in the railway, for some 42 years. He finished as the area signalling and telecommunications engineer for Scotland East.
Since retirement he’s volunteered with the local talking newspaper.
Parkinson’s UK is the leading charity supporting those with the condition.
Its mission is to find a cure and improve life for everyone affected by Parkinson’s through cutting-edge research, information, support and campaigning.
For advice, information and support, visit www.parkinsons.org.uk or call the free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 0303.
If you would like to support Neil Wightman in his fundraising efforts, you can also do so by visiting the website www.justgiving.com/fundraising/neil-wightman.