A group of siblings are preparing to hike 15 mountains which their father is unable to complete after being diagnosed with MND.
Former oil worker David Choat was a fit and healthy father-of-four who loved ‘Munro bagging’ with his wife Judy in their spare time – until he was given his devastating diagnosis in 2017.
After the couple, both 66, shared the news with the rest of their family, their children rallied round and decided to pay tribute to their father’s beloved pastime – while raising money for MND charity My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.
The family, from Aberdeen, are now planning to tackle the 15 Munros – Scottish mountains more than 3000 feet – between June this year and the summer of 2021.
Motor neurone disease (MND) is a debilitating illness that affects the brain and nerves – shortening sufferers’ lifespans – and in most cases results in death, with no known cure.
The couple’s son Paul, 34, said his parents kept the diagnosis to themselves before revealing it to the family months later around November 2017.
Paul, who was at the Scotland v New Zealand rugby game in November 2017 when Doddie Weir launched his charity, said: “I was at that game but had no idea my dad had been diagnosed.
“It was pretty devastating.
“Him and my mum decided to keep it between themselves at first because the symptoms weren’t obvious and I think was to give them a chance to process everything and keep things as normal as possible for as long as possible.
“It’s been really tough as a family but we’re lucky that we’re really close to support each other and our mum and dad.
“He’s still walking and his speech hasn’t been affected yet, so he’s beating the odds so far and staying unbelievably positive about it all.”
Paul told how for years his mum and dad racked up 267 Munros and relished the outdoors.
He said: “Ever since we were kids our mum and dad have been very active.
“My dad worked for Shell and travelled abroad for his job then settled in Aberdeen around school age.
“From there they started ticking off Munros one by one and tried to convince us to join them.
“That’s how they spent their free time.
“It’s been ongoing for the past 25 years.”
Paul, who runs a property maintenance company, said he and his sister Becky, 37, and brothers Adam, 31, and Matt, 40, revealed the Munro and fundraising idea to their parents while at the family home at Christmas.
He said: “For the fundraiser we decided we didn’t want to step on dad’s toes because he was still determined to complete them.
“But he eventually realised it wouldn’t be possible.
“After that we decided to combine our efforts into something.
“He had 15 left so we want to complete those and raise money along the way.
“We floated the idea to mum and dad.
“Mum said she’d be really keen to join us and dad would help with the organising.
“As much as I enjoy the outdoors I wouldn’t say I’m in perfect trim to go climbing mountains.
“But it’s good that we’re all coming together as a family.
“As much as it’s about raising the money it’s also about coming together as a family and helping mum and dad.”
Starting in June, the family will travel to Cuillin range on the Isle of Skye to hike up Sgurr na Banachdich and Bla Bheinn.
Afterwards they will attempt An Stuc near Loch Tay, Perth and Kinross, and in August they plan on taking a week off to complete five Munros near Inverness.
Paul admitted that the logistics of the challenge are ‘tricky’ as Matt lives in London.
He said: “We’re all quite scattered throughout the UK.
“The organisation is quite tricky.
“We’re hoping to do half this year then the other half next year.
“Most of the ones left are in the middle of nowhere.”
Having raised £2737 since the beginning of January and exceeded their target already, Paul said the family aim to keep going until they complete their Munro mission.
He said: “We initially set out to raise £2000 but are already past that.
“None of us have seen a Munro since the fundraiser started but we just want to raise as much as we can.
“It’s been amazing the generosity shown by people so far.
“We didn’t think we’d get as much support as we have.
“We’ll just continue and see where we get to.”