By Mitchell Clarke
Eight months was all it took for 38-year-old Craig Bryant to succumb to the horrors of Motor Neurone Disease.
From a stint in hospital with asthma, doctors discovered unusual muscle wastage in his legs. Two months later, in November 2010, the diagnosis was MND.
Craig was described as a “fit, healthy, active sport-loving husband and father”. That would all disappear as the illness took hold.
He was robbed of the opportunity to watch his sons Zach and Archie grow up. Zach was four-years-old and Archie just four-months-old when their father passed away.
Wife Leah Bryant said the couple were at a happy point in their life when the news came.
“We’d just planned to have a second child, we were so excited, and we were halfway through my pregnancy when Craig got sick,” Leah said.
“Zach watched his Dad who was healthy, loved to kick the footy and lived life to the fullest, slowly diminish into a wheelchair, so it’s not something that is easy for a family to have to go through.”
The grief inspired the creation of Craig’s Crew, a group founded by Leah, her boys and Craig’s immediate family, to raise funds and awareness for FightMND in his honour.
Dedicating her life to the cause, Leah has found this the most empowering way for the family to remember their much loved man.
“When Craig first got diagnosed, we had no idea what MND was, but once we found out there was nothing we could do for him, we got straight into fundraising as soon as we could,” Leah said.
“FightMND just resonates with what we want to see. We want to see research and we want to see a cure and we’ll do what we can to make that happen.”
Craig’s Crew have been supported by the local sporting community, with Leah selling socks to 51 sporting teams in the region.
“Sport is community and community is what helps people through tough times,” she said.
“For us, it is also a sign of hope. By the community supporting us, it gives us hope that one day we can stop another family having to live through what we had to live through.
“We have been lucky enough in Pakenham to have built up huge support from all our local sporting groups. We’ve managed to sell 1100 pairs of socks and over 800 beanies this year.”
On Saturday 15 June, Craig’s Crew will partner with the Pakenham Football Club for a Big Freeze charity event.
Pakenham Football Club President Travis Hamilton says the cause is extremely worthy.
“As the Bryant family was tied up with the junior football club we felt as a senior club to help recognise this terrible disease and help raise funds to fight MND,” Mr Hamilton said.
“What Leah and her family have been through goes to show just how it can affect those close to us, and dedicating a round of football to support the fight against MND is the least we can do as a club.”
Much like the popular ‘Big Freeze at the G’ event made famous by former Australian Rules Footballer and MND sufferer Neale Daniher, the event will include a giant ice slide, with Neale’s daughter Bec attending the event to officiate proceedings.
Mr Hamilton has committed to braving the cold and taking part, joining Leah’s sons, Hon Jason Wood MP, Cardinia Shire Mayor Graeme Moore and Councillor Brett Owen among a list of other local personalities who will slide for a good cause.
Members of the community are urged to get behind the cause by purchasing a ticket or booking a table for a luncheon on the day.Tickets can be bought online at: https://www.trybooking.com/book/sessions?eid=506481.