A BRAVE Celtic fan who is battling motor neurone disease enjoyed an emotional reunion with his three sons outside Paradise after they completed an epic 121-mile charity trek.
Steven Pert, whose mobility has been badly compromised by the cruel condition, walked on crutches along Celtic Way to meet John, Paul and Sean as they finished a five-day walk from Angus to Glasgow’s East End.
The 58-year-old told the Glasgow Times of his determination to join his boys for the final stretch of their journey, with the family cheered to the finish line by hundreds of proud Hoops fans.
John, 41, Paul, 37, and 34-year-old Sean completed the distance – equivalent to almost five marathons – in time to watch last Sunday’s Premiership victory over Hearts.
Steven said: “It was a special moment with my boys and I’m bursting with pride at what they achieved. They are just incredible and have raised over £12,00 for MND Scotland.
“Walking down Celtic Way together is a moment I’ll never forget. A lot of friends who wouldn’t normally go to a game turned up and to see so many people either side of the barriers was quite an experience. There was barely a dry eye and it’s something I’ll always cherish.
“The Celtic Way is normally closed off for the arrival of the team bus, but the club allowed us to walk up there together. The boys’ feet were completely wrecked after the walk, and it took a few days for their legs to recover. However, they were determined to finish in plenty of time so we could all watch the game.
“Knowing the money, they have raised will go towards helping fund vital work to find a cure for MND means the world to me.”
Steven worked as a signaller with Network Rail before his diagnosis ended his 38-year career.
MND stops signals from the brain from reaching the muscles and causes difficulty walking, talking, eating or breathing unaided. The disease is slowly robbing him of his mobility and he relies on a special machine to help with his breathing at night.
Steven and his wife Yvonne, 58, first noticed something wasn’t right when they were out enjoying a stroll.
Yvonne said: “We noticed he was very out of breath and quite lethargic, and that wasn’t like him. A few weeks later his breathing was worse, and he was referred for heart and lung tests. Initially, we weren’t sure what was causing the issues. He was sent for lots of blood and electro tests, and we were told it was MND in January.“
The couple say the diagnosis came as a huge shock, but despite knowing what lies ahead, Steven is determined to put on a brave face for his family.
He added: “I immediately thought of Jimmy Johnstone and Fernando Ricksen, who both passed away from MND. It was a lot to take in and I was gutted because we feel cheated of our future retirement plans. We wanted to travel and go to all the places we haven’t had a chance to visit. Now that seems like an impossible dream.
“MND changes your life in so many ways and I’m already struggling to walk. I’ve also had a feeding tube put into my stomach.
“Eight years ago, I took part in the ice bucket challenge to raise funds for research into MND, never for a second thinking, it would happen to me. It’s a brutal condition and gradually destroys your independence, speech and mobility.
“Right now I’m trying to take it one day at a time and try not think too much about the future. It’s daunting though knowing what will inevitably happen to me.”
After Steven’s diagnosis, his boys came up with the idea of walking 121 miles to raise funds for MND Scotland.
The family, who are based in Montrose, say they have been stunned by the generosity people have shown.
Yvonne added: “Our lads have been incredible, and this is their way of giving something back. We’ve been shown so much support by this wonderful charity and we know we can just pick up the phone if we need anything.
“We never put a figure on what we hoped we might raise. We just let it roll and whatever came in would be a bonus for the effort the boys put in.
“It was also a perfect way for it to end for them at Celtic Park because they are all such huge fans of the club.
“So many people rely on MND Scotland for free support to make living with this condition a little easier. If doing this can help achieve that, then it will all have been worthwhile.”
To donate visit: Walk from Montrose to Celtic Park for MND Scotland