On Sunday 2nd October 2022, Millie Hawkins and mum Sarah Hawkins set off on their lengthy journey with a group of supporters made up of friends and family. The group walked from the Radstock Wheel to Bath Abbey to raise funds for research into Motor Neurone Disease, an illness which Kim Hawkins, father to Millie and Charlie, and husband to Sarah, sadly was diagnosed with and passed away from two weeks after their fundraiser.

The route they took from Radstock passed through Wellow, where a headcount was conducted of just over one hundred people at the Trekking Centre.

Kim Hawkins, also known as Kimbo to friends and family, joined the group at the Hope and Anchor in Midford and continued the rest of the way in his wheelchair.

“It was really fun, it was a really good day - and the sun was out!” Millie says, despite the circumstances.

“It was such a great atmosphere, despite the fact that we were doing it for such a sad reason”, agrees mum Sarah.

Lots of friends and family joined in at different parts of the walk, with even more people waiting at the end at Bath Abbey. A JustGiving page was set up by Millie prior to the walk, and buckets were carried for fundraising on the day. In total, they managed to raise an incredible £10,542 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, with all the money going specifically into the research of the gene that Kim carried, which is the hereditary form of Motor Neurone Disease.

“I always said I wanted to do something because my granddad died from the same thing. I always said if I was going to do a fundraiser it would be in support of MND, and when dad got diagnosed I thought, ‘I really need to do something about this’”, explains Millie.

It wasn’t until Kim was diagnosed that the family found out the condition could be hereditary.

Motor Neurone Disease is rare, it happens when cells in the brain and nerves called motor neurones gradually stop working leading to muscle weakness, often visibly, eventually leading to death.

The first thing that the family noticed was changes to Kim’s speech and personality.

Sarah said, “It’s a wicked, wicked disease.”

Explaining more about Kimbo, they both described him as a very active person. He was a builder by trade, and kept and bred a number of birds. He had other animals too, which kept him on the go even after a long work day.

“He would be up the garden every day a few times a day”, said Sarah, who has just finished taking down all the aviaries where Kim kept his birds in the garden.

Despite his condition, Sarah said,

“He did have his humour right up until the last few months.”

“He loved music, he’d always be playing the air guitar. He’d normally be found on top of the scaffolding playing the saw like a guitar and singing at the top of his voice.”

“He just lived life as if every day was his last. And he was right to do that. I just think, I cant be miserable for him - he’d go mad if we were”, said Sarah.

Kim’s funeral was held on November 11th, 2022. Around four hundred people attended, which shows how much of an impact he had on people in his life.

“We don’t ever want anyone to forget him, which is why we want to do the walk again”, they both explain.

The family discussed a few dates when they’d like to do another memorial walk for Kimbo, including what would have been his 60th birthday on 21st September, and repeating the walk again on or around the same date as last year, 2nd October.

Millie and Sarah have now decided to do the second walk around the 21st of October, on the first anniversary of dad/Kim passing away.

“I think we should make what will be a hard day into a lovely memory for Kim because the last time was great” explains Sarah.

“We can all get to the Abbey and have a drink for Kimbo in Bath. Why not make light of a hard day?”

“We will put buckets out, so if people want to donate they can. I realise that times are tough and people can’t afford to give money away, and we raised so much money last time. It’s about keeping his memory alive more than anything else.”

Even when they aren’t planning their big walk, the family are often getting involved with projects to raise money and awareness of the disease. Kim’s sister made masks during lockdown and profits made from sales went to the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Millie also works as a cake maker, and donates ten percent of her cake sales to MND research.

Sarah and Millie explained that there won’t be a JustGiving page set up for next time, just the donation buckets that will be carried along on the walk.

“We aren’t doing it for the money, we’re doing it in Kim’s memory. I just think; let’s remember Kim on a day that would’ve been sad, let’s make it a lovely day”. Sarah said.

For more information on Motor Neurone Disease, visit: https://www.mndassociation.org/