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Former Sunderland AFC footballer leads 24 hour fitness challenge to raise £8,500 for a seven-year-old girl with spina bifida

A former footballer has underwent a tough fitness challenge to support a seven-year-old girl from Sunderland who suffers with spina bifida.

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Friday, 6th May 2022, 9:08 am

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Ex-Sunderland footballer turned fitness coach, Simon Ramsden, delivered 24 hours of back-to-back fitness classes without sleep to support Rubie O’Brien.

Doctors told Rubie’s mum, Ciara Heffernan, that she may have spina bifida, a condition spine and spinal cord does not develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine, during her 20-week scan.

The condition means that Rubie, who lives with her sisters Lillie and Mila, is affected from the waist down and has left her with no feeling in her legs, meaning she needs a wheelchair to get around.

Rubie with Simon, who will led the 24-hour fitness challenge.

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During the event, there were 40 spaces per class, with many selling out after it caught the attention of SR Functional Fitness’ and young footballers from North East Sports’ Team Galaxy and Myers Football Team.

Rubie’s mum, Ciara, said: “We are overwhelmed by the generosity and support of everyone who got behind the fitness challenge.

“I honestly can’t put into words how grateful I am to every single person, Rubie is a very lucky girl to be surrounded by the most supportive people.

Simon (right) led the fitness classes for 24 hours without sleep.

"The funds will pay for the next wheelchair that she needs now, without me having to worry about how to fundraise for it, it’s just an amazing feeling.”

Rubie, who won the Child of Courage Award in The Best of Wearside Awards, caught the attention of Simon after she joined one of his SR Functional Fitness Kids’ bootcamps.

He commented: “Rubie is an absolute gem. Everyone who attends the classes loves her and wanted to support the challenge in any way they could from joining in the sessions, raffle prizes to JustGiving donations.

The event managed to raise £8,500 for Rubie which will go towards anything that she needs in the future, such as a new wheelchair.

“I am blown away by the amount raised, I knew everyone would get behind the challenge, but I didn’t think we’d raise as much as we have.

“The support has been remarkable from Downey’s to the Grand Hotel letting us host the event there all through the night, to the amount of raffle prizes and donations from local businesses.

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"It was fantastic to see my regular clients support each other and get behind the event by booking so many sessions, especially one of my regulars who did 22 out of 24 of the sessions.

Rubie even took part in the challenge with her mum Claire.

“We really have created a special group at SR Functional Fitness, the atmosphere in every class was second to none and it was without doubt one of the most rewarding 24 hours of my life.”