COLERAINE girl Louise Greer will join football legend Denis Law for the launch of a fundraising walk to eradicate meningitis this Thursday.
The former Manchester United and Scotland star is a patron for Meningitis UK and is supporting its latest Bordering on a Vaccine trek, which covers 202 miles across Northern Ireland, to raise funds towards vaccine research.
Denis’ son Andrew contracted meningococcal septicaemia in 1990, when he was 24.
He made a full recovery but Denis (pictured), a former European Footballer of the Year, knows his family were lucky as that form of the disease is particularly dangerous, killing a fifth of those who get it.
Law, from Altringham in Cheshire, said: “My son Andrew suffered from meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia when he was 24, but thankfully recovered, so Meningitis UK is a charity that is very close to my heart.
“It is a great privilege to be a patron for such a worthwhile cause and I really enjoy taking part in their events. I would urge people throughout Northern Ireland to support the walk by taking part of making donations.
“Hopefully through events like the Bordering on a Vaccine walk, enough money will be raised to stop families going through what we went through.”
Also present at the launch in Londonderry, where the walk begins on May 23, will be 11-year-old Louise Greer.
She lost both her legs and an arm to meningitis when she was two – but the brave youngster is determined to take part in the fundraising trek.
Her mum Gwen, from Coleraine, said: “When Louise fell ill, doctors warned us she might not make. Because meningococcal septicaemia – a form of blood poisoning – had caused irreversible damage the only way to save her was to amputate her limbs.
“We’re thankful to still have her and she’s doing really well. She loves going on the walks and helping to fundraise. We do have to use her wheelchair sometimes but she’s always determined to walk part of the way without any help.”
Anyone can join the walk, which passes from Derry to Limavady, Portrush, Ballyvoy, Carnlough, Larne, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Newtownards, Strangford, Newcastle and Rostrevor, at any time and walk for any distance.
Steve Dayman, the founder of Meningitis UK, who lost his son Spencer to meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia in 1982, will be walking the entire 202 mile route from May 23 to May 31.
He has just completed his 25th marathon walk, during which he marked his 10,000th mile – the equivalent to walking more than a third of the way round the world.
Steve said: “Last year we raised a staggering 35,000 and I was joined by over 100 supporters. We’re still determined to beat that fantastic total, even in the current financial climate.
“The first of my 25 walks was from Londonderry to London in 1992 and since then I’ve walked over 10,000 miles so it’ll be poignant coming back. It’s an event that our supporters look forward to which encourages me to keep going.
“People can walk for as little or as long as they want, starting and finishing anywhere along the route. Their support will enable us to make a significant contribution to vaccine development, so please come and join us for any stage of this picturesque journey.”
Money raised will support its Search 4 a Vaccine Campaign, which aims to raise 7 million to fund vital research into developing a vaccine against Meningitis B - the most common form of meningitis in the UK. This accounts for almost 90 per cent of all cases in the UK and there is still no vaccine.
Everyone who takes part will receive a free commemorative t-shirt, an information pack including handy tips on how to prepare for the event and raise money, sponsorship forms and support from the charity’s fundraising team.
If you would like to take part in Meningitis UK’s 2009 Bordering on a Vaccine Spring Walk, please phone 0117 373 73 73 or visit www.meningitisuk.org