AN inspirational dad who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease 12 months ago has raised nearly half a million pounds for Doddie Weir’s charity.

Dad-of-three James Clarke, 42, has managed to raise a whopping £441,421 for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation after taking on a gruelling 50-mile celebrity-backed cycling challenge and a glamourous fundraising ball.

The Hampshire man was diagnosed with the terminal condition in December 2021 and has pledged to raise as much money as he can for vital research into the disease in honour of rugby star Weir, who passed away in November.

Speaking about the former Scotland rugby international, Clarke said: “The strength and determination he displayed whilst fighting MND was truly inspirational and the legacy he leaves is the stuff of legend. 

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“I didn’t play much rugby at school, but I promise to pick the ball up and drive towards the MND try line supported by friends and family as teammates and score some points against this toughest of opponents.”

In October, Clarke hosted the inaugural Brancaster Ball which he organised with his friends, family, and former colleagues at real-estate agency Knight Frank within a matter of weeks. 

The black-tie event, held at Frensham Hall in Farnham, was attended by 380 guests and raised a mammoth £207,000 for MND research. A second event on Saturday, February 4, is already sold out. 

The National: James Clarke with his childrenJames Clarke with his children (Image: Story Shop)

“It was better than I ever could have imagined,” Clarke said. 

“I was completely overwhelmed by the support my family and I received on the night, and I am delighted we managed to raise as much as we did to fund the fight against MND.”

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Prior to that, Clarke embarked on a 50-mile cycle along the historic Shipwright’s Way surrounded by his 13-year-old son, Ollie, and 24 riders.

Completing the cycle was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Clarke.

“It was my arms that bore the brunt of the pain due to the stress of holding my body upright on the bike. There were a few big hills on the trail which proved to be a real challenge – at one point, my friends Gary Hall and Phil Hobley had to physically hold me up on either side just to make it to the top. I didn’t stop once, though. I was determined to finish.

“My body was in immense pain towards the last few miles, so having my son there alongside me was a real boost. I was very emotional crossing the finish line. I have never felt anything like it.”

His determination to support the mission to one day find a cure for MND hasn’t gone unnoticed, with a galaxy of stars including footballing legend David Beckham, broadcaster Fearne Cotton and astronaut Tim Peake among the celebrities backing his incredible efforts.

Clarke said: “My wife Lottie and I reached out to a few celebrity contacts asking them to help spread the word about our fundraising, but we never expected to receive the response we did. 

“You can imagine how humbled we were – even my teenage daughter was impressed, and believe me, that’s not easy!”

Jill Douglas, CEO of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, said: “What an amazing effort by James and his family and friends. He is such an inspiring character and we very much appreciate his support.”

To support Clarke’s fundraising efforts, visit