Tributes have been paid to an inspirational Melton man who raised more than £50,000 to help fellow sufferers of motor neurone disease before losing his own brave battle with the condition.
Dad-of-two Stewart Sparling (44) led an active life and worked as a police officer when he was diagnosed in 2011.
Despite increasingly impaired movement he embarked on a remarkable fundraising campaign for the Motor Neurone Disease Association charity by organising a number of activities.
Earlier this year Stewart launched his new charity the Treble One Trust - named after his collar number when he was in Leicestershire Police.
While he had always been grateful for all that the MND Association does for sufferers, Stewart became concerned there was no funding for specialised equipment to help those battling the later stages of the condition.
So he launched the Treble One Trust to help other sufferers buy life-changing equipment.
Speaking to the Melton Times in April Stewart said: “I can’t emphasise enough the difference specialist equipment has made to my everyday life. I urge anyone who can to please donate to this worthwhile cause.”
Stewart, who was married to Angie and had two children, Lewis and Caitlin, died on Saturday (June 20) with his family by his side.
Those who knew Stewart have been paying their tributes on Facebook and Twitter.
A tweet from the Treble One Trust read: “A huge inspiration and courageous man RIP. Our thoughts are with his family who have asked us to pass on their sincere thanks for all of the lovely tributes and messages sent.”
Leicestershire Police Chief Constable Simon Cole tweeted on Sunday: “Duties ceased for PS 111 Stew Sparling. An absolute inspiration @leicspolice @thetreble1trust #MND.”
In his latest blog Mr Cole added: “Stew’s courage in the face of motor neurone disease was inspirational. He had great support from his family, but also from colleagues such as Ian McGrath and Ian Coulton. To turn his own ill health into the positives for others through The Treble One Trust tells you all that you need to know about Stew. May he rest in peace. Our thoughts are with his family. I have asked that we retire the collar number 111: it seems to me to be an appropriate gesture.”
@MegFairhead wrote: “RIP to an incredible man Stewart Sparling you’ll be missed by so many @thetreble1trust.”
Former England and Leicestershire cricketer Paul Nixon tweeted: “Very sad news my thoughts go out to Stews awesome family and close friends #RIP.”
Sarah Cooke commented on the Treble One Trust Facebook page: “I am so sorry to hear this. My thoughts and condolences are with Stewart’s family. I have fond memories of Stewart from my years as a teenager. A really nice guy, a fighter and an inspiration. RIP Stewart.”
Laura Whiteside said: “Such a lovely, genuine, wonderful man - gone far too soon. We’re so upset but thoughts are with Angie and the kids at this sad time. Stewart was so well thought of and always will be xxxx.”
Donna Young, community manager for the MND Association, said: “Stewart was a great campaigner and raised a significant amount of money and awareness for people living with MND. Our thoughts are very much with his family and loved ones at this sad time.”
A service to celebrate Stewart’s life will be held at Melton’s St Mary’s Church on Monday, July 6 at 11.30am followed by a private cremation. Family flowers only.
Donations in his memory are for the Treble One Trust. All enquiries to Richard Barnes Funeral Directors on (01664) 565311.
An annual charity football match, which will now be a memorial match to Stewart, will be taking place on Sunday, July 5.
Proceeds from the Stew Sparling All Stars versus the Leicester City Legends match will go to the Treble One Trust.
Former Foxes stars including Steve Walsh, Muzzy Izzet, Julian Joachim, Steve Guppy and more are expected to feature. The match will be played at Asfordby Amateurs ground on Hoby Road, kick-off 2.30pm. Entry on the door will be £2.50. A licensed bar and hot food will be available.
The MND Association, founded in 1979, is the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on MND care, research and campaigning.
The association improves care and support for people with MND, their families and carers, funds and promotes research towards finding a cure for MND and campaigns and raises awareness so the needs of people with MND and everyone who cares for them are recognised and addressed by wider society.
To make a donation to the MND Association visit www.mndassociation.org
For more about the Treble One Trust visit its Facebook or Twitter page @treble1trust