We’ll all rally round for brave dad Joni

Joni with his niece Piper and daughters Iona and Aimee
Joni with his niece Piper and daughters Iona and Aimee

A massive fund-raising effort is under way to help a popular young dad diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of just 34.

Former Bell Baxter High School pupil Joni Halley was given the devastating news that he had the degenerative illness last October, several months after noticing symptoms that were intially put down to a trapped nerve.

Tragically he has been told that his is an aggressive form of the disease and his mobility is rapidly deteriorating.

Now friends and family are rallying round to raise funds to help pay for the adaptations he urgently needs to his home in Glenrothes that he shares with his wife Becky and daughters Iona (7) and Aimee (3).

Although Fife Council is contributing to the cost, thousands more is needed and, once the work is done, brave Joni hopes what he poignantly calls his ‘bucket fund’ will continue so that other families affected by MND can benefit.

Joni has been overwhelmed by the kindness of the people of Cupar, who have thrown themselves into fund-raising.

His niece , Piper Shanks (11), who’s in P6 at Craigrothie Primary, raised £1200 by holding a ‘non-chocothon’, while Cupar Old Parish Church raised £500 by holding a daffodil tea.

And it’s hoped the fund will receive a significant boost with an ‘old firm’ charity football match at Duffus Park on May 24.

Joni’s sister Michelle Smith, who is Piper’s mum, told the Fife Herald that Joni urgently needed an extension to the lower floor of the family home as well as a wetroom and disabled bathroom facilities.

“Each day life is becoming more of a challenge for him,” said Michelle.

“It’s heartbreaking to see how rapidly the disease is developing.

“Just a year ago he was a fit young man with an active outdoor job building fences and decking.

“Then he started getting symptoms like blurred vision and began tripping and falling. It was put down to a trapped nerve and it wasn’t until some months later that he was told he had MND.”

Motor neurone disease is a rare condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system, leading to muscle weakness and causing increasing loss of mobility in the limbs, and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing.

The cause of the condition isn’t yet known and as yet there is no cure.

Joni’s family have set up a Facebook page, Jonis-Bucket-Fund, which gives details of all the fund-raising activities that are planned as well as information about how to donate.

“The fund-raising campaign will be kept open permanently after we’re raised enough to help Joni,” said Michelle.

“We want to help others too.”