April 15, 2013

The Rooprai Spinal Trust - An Interview with Founders Marrianne Rooprai and Andy Uttridge

Tim Drumhiller
We are proud of Amigo President Tim Drumhiller, who will be running in the 2013 London Marathon on April 21st as a member of The Rooprai Spinal Trust fundraising team. Along with seven other runners, Tim has spent the past few months fundraising while logging 40-60 miles per week in preparation for the race. He has exceeded his goal of raising £1,800 (about $2,700) to support RS Trust and spinal research programs!

We interviewed Marrianne and Andy for our Friendly Wheels enewsletter earlier this month. They are a wonderful couple, and we are confident their story will touch your heart as it did ours -- read on to hear more about The Rooprai Spinal Trust!

What does it mean to you to have people running 26.2 miles in your honor and to benefit The Rooprai Spinal Trust?

Marrianne Rooprai (MR): Whenever anyone does something to help RS Trust -- whether it is running the marathon, shaving their head or donating funds -- it gives me such a lift to know that I’m not facing this journey alone. I have a massive team behind me. A team that RS Trust supporters are proud of. It drives me to want to progress more, as I want to return the faith supporters have shown in me.

Andy Uttridge and 
Marrianne Rooprai

Your road to recovery has been (and I'm sure continues to be) a long and difficult journey. Was there a specific moment that made you feel particularly empowered or made you realize that though your life is now different, it is still wonderful?

MR: My life as I knew it changed forever when I had my accident. I live in hope that someday the research world will find the answer to reverse paralysis. Until that day comes, I just strive to make progress and make the most of what I have. Of course things were very hard in the beginning and I still have dark days, but as a whole I just look forward. From my days in the spinal unit, I was always determined to make my own path and to not be labeled someone who ‘can’t do this' or 'can’t do that’. I wanted to see for myself what I can and can’t do.

What advice would you give someone who feels they are facing an overwhelming road to recovery?
Marrianne with her rehab team

Andy Uttridge (AU): All we can do is share our experiences, encourage people to keep an open mind and point out that things do get better and you can progress. Because RS Trust is a very small 100% volunteer charity, we have very limited resources. The beauty of the internet is that we get many people contacting us just asking for some guidance or advice. It costs us nothing, just our time, to offer some help or support. It might be an email to a lad in America or Brazil, Australia or France. 

Just last month we went to visit a guy in Sheffield, UK who has the same injury as Marrianne. He was in a bad place emotionally, and his family found our website and asked if we’d visit. We did, and we've become friends with him and his partner. We have also arranged for them to visit the physiotherapy center Marrianne goes to. We try to share our view that the glass is very much ‘half full’. 

Andy and Marriane
after a half marathon

Andy - what goes through your mind as you run to benefit RS Trust? I can imagine that it feels empowering but may also be an emotional experience.

AU: I don’t consider myself a runner by any means -- I wouldn’t even say I enjoy it! But last year's London Marathon was such an amazing experience. You are surrounded by people who have a story to share as to why they are running. It was very humbling to see so many people coming together to help others. I was extremely proud to know I was doing my bit to help our small charity and help Marrianne and others like her. I was also thrilled to be able to share the money I raised with Spinal Research and the fight to reverse paralysis.

I knew Marrianne was watching at the finish line last year, along with my Mum and Dad, and  when I spotted them, I just burst into tears! It was a mix of knowing I had finished, that I’d raised lots of money but I also felt proud to know I was trying my hardest to help Marrianne. I said I'd never do it again when I crossed the line but the buzz of the whole event far outweighed the pain. So I'm back again this year and I've brought seven friends, including Tim from Amigo.

What is the number one goal you hope to achieve through the Rooprai Spinal Trust?

AU: Initially RS Trust was about helping Marrianne, but our long term goal was always to help others with spinal cord injury. We just want to inspire and show others that progress is possible. RS Trust now does that and we want  to help more and more people. We always want RS Trust to stay a volunteer family/friends run charity, so people know the money we raise goes directly to help others.

To learn more about Marrianne, Andy and The Rooprai Spinal Trust, click here to visit their website, or click here to 'like' their facebook page

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