Thousands of people will this weekend pound Blackpool Promenade in aid of good causes – and former Blackpool FC assistant boss Steve Thompson will be among them.
Steve is taking part in Sunday’s 10k fun run to raise funds for the care of his friend and former Seasiders youth team coach and player Gary Parkinson, who suffers from Locked-in Syndrome.
Following a stroke in 2010 Gary, now 46, was left unable to speak, with movement restricted to his eyes. He communicates by blinking.
Steve is seeking sponsors ahead of the run and all donations will go to the Gary Parkinson Trust, which helps Gary’s family to fund his care.
“We’ve done the run a few times and we try to help out Gary as much as we can. It will be worth the pain for such a good cause,” said Steve, who lost his job in January when Paul Ince was sacked.
“We will keep going and doing things like this until we get back the Parky we have known and loved.
“I just want to make sure Gary is not forgotten about.”
The fund-raiser will be a family affair, with Steve being joined by son, Curtis, who plays for Bamber Bridge, plus daughters Stephanie and Maisie and brother Mark.
His friends Andy Lyons and Dave Nolan, and Dave’s son Ben, are also taking part.
Steve’s wife, Vivienne, will offer support from the sidelines – and he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of there being another special guest.
“I will ask Gary’s family if he is able to come along on Sunday and then come back to our house,” said Steve. “I saw Gary a couple of weeks ago when he came to watch two of his old teams, Burnley and Middlesbrough, play and the reception he got at half-time was absolutely fantastic – he filled up.
“The Blackpool fans have contributed fantastically when we have done the run before and we hope to get into the thousands in money raised.”
Steve, who usually visits Gary at least every other week at his home in Westhoughton near Bolton, said the Gary Parkinson Trust helped to pay for a ‘whole repertoire’ of care.
“Gary has carers in every day, he has physiotherapy and he spends time in the pool,” he added.
“The money raised will help to keep his standard of life up. Myself and the former Blackpool director Gavin Steele took him a walking machine, which his legs can be strapped to, the other week.
“It’s things like that which can help him. His family has also talked about the possibility of him going for specialist treatment in Germany or America.”
Steve said that Gary had recently been visited by Peter Coghlan, a 35-year-old former solider who recovered from Locked-in Syndrome after two years and has now written a book about his experiences.
“It was very emotional and there were a few tears shed. Peter gave Gary a few home truths about the kind of things he needs to be doing every day to challenge himself and get that bit of spark back – just little things like spelling things in different ways,” said Steve.
“I think it will have inspired Gary to meet someone who has been there and done it.
“His face lights up when you go and see him, and talk to him about football and I think he has still got the fire in his belly to get through this.”