HAVING rowed into the record books, Frank Rothwell has also completed the second part of his challenge – raising £1 million for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Frank become the oldest person to conquer the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge solo, rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic from La Gomera to Antigua to 56 days.
His efforts have raised the incredible seven-figure amount, with the first £500,000 worth of donations doubled by the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation.
Frank was inspired to undertake the journey by his 62-year-old brother-in-law, Roger who died from dementia during his trip and was also a victim of Down’s syndrome.
“When I started going out with Judith, Roger was about eight years old and people would say life expectancy wasn’t good,” explained Frank, 70.
“But care and attention to his well-being ensured he lived much longer. But Roger had difficulty communicating and because of that it didn’t trigger to us he had Alzheimer’s.
“He developed it later in life and that encouraged and inspired me to take on this challenge.
“I set out in December wishing to raise £1 million for Alzheimer’s Research UK but I never thought I’d actually achieve it.
“The challenge was incredibly tough at times, with rough seas, huge waves, and missing my wife Judith.
“But as exhausting as it was, it was all totally worth it as I hope the money we raised will make a huge difference to so many lives.
“Having received hundreds of messages from people who, like me, have witnessed the heartbreak of dementia, I am proud to have raised such an incredible amount in honour of Roger, and everyone else who has experienced the devastation it causes.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has reached into their pockets and donated, and Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation who gave £500,000 with their match-funding pledge. I couldn’t have done it all without your support.”
The Alzheimer’s Society estimate there are currently around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.
“On the day the doctor says to you have Alzheimer’s, that is going to be the best day you have,” added Frank.
“Every day from then gets progressively worse. And there is no cure. You can’t take a pill to delay it.
“It has affected so many people yet we are still only at the research side of it.
“ARUK don’t do research themselves but provide the funding for different organisations and universities to do it.
“And I feel very honoured I have been able to do something in life that is going to make a difference.
“Hopefully everyone wants to do something to help other people. But for me to find something and do it justice and to raise the kind of money that it needs then I am really happy with the project.
“Don’t forget once research is done to find a cure it is available to everyone in the world; it is not patented.”
More than 9,000 supporters have donated to Frank’s JustGiving page, helping him raise more funds for a charity than any other contestant.
Dave W wrote: “I can’t even begin to imagine how on earth you achieved this phenomenal feat! You are a hero!”
Dean Stewart added: “Congratulations on a fantastic achievement! Inspiration for people of all ages.”
And Pamela put: “Frank is an incredible individual and we salute him. My mother died many years ago with Alzheimer’s so my sympathy goes to those families suffering today and my applause to those who bring comfort.”
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We’re honoured to have such amazing support from Frank.
“His courage and determination helped him to complete his epic challenge and raise £1 million for dementia research.
“This incredible amount will be a huge benefit to the ground-breaking research we carry out to bring about life-changing treatments for people affected by dementia.
“We’d like to say a huge thank you to Frank for taking on this incredible challenge, Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation for their generous match-funding, and of course, everyone who has supported Frank’s efforts.
“Frank is a true hero, we can’t wait to thank him in person when we can.”
Sir Malcolm Walker, Founder and Executive Chairman of Iceland Foods added: “Frank’s determination to complete this monumental challenge is truly astounding!
“I am proud to call Frank a friend, and we’re honoured to have helped him reach his fundraising goal by donating £500,000 on behalf of Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation.
“Many of us have experienced the impact of dementia in some way, and seeing the reaction from the public has confirmed the urgency of finding life-changing treatments for this devastating condition.
“We’d like to thank Frank and everyone who has cheered him on from the UK and beyond.”
Frank’s JustGiving page is still open for donations: www.justgiving.com/frankrothwell