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Fundraising success for university student supporting his friends with brain tumours.

A Dundee University student has been spearheading a series of fundraising events to support The Brain Tumour Charity after two of his close friends were diagnosed with the condition.

Matt Gibson-Smith and Rhudi Kennedy

Matthew Gibson-Smith, 20 from Glasgow, has been hosting a calendar of fundraising events including a recent club night at the Dundee University Student Union and a four-hour charity cycle, which was livestreamed on Facebook.

Matt is doing so to support The Brain Tumour Charity which has provide help and guidance to Matt’s best friend, Rhudi Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was 13-years-old. Matt’s fundraising is also in memory of his brother’s best friend, Murray, who passed away after being diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2019 when he was a student at Glasgow University.

Matt said: “I have been really inspired after seeing people close to me either lose their lives to or still live with the significant consequences of a brain tumour. Seeing Rhudi go through the ordeal of his diagnosis was painful –  it meant that he wasn’t able to hang out with his friends at a time when we were all playing football and going to parties. But Rhudi didn’t let this get him down – he just concentrated on getting better. Soon, he was better than ever and back to always having a cheeky smile on his face.

“I am so pleased that Rhudi now works closely with The Brain Tumour Charity to support their vital work. I want to do something similar whilst also raising awareness of brain tumours and their signs and symptoms. I knew nothing about brain tumours then but now I know just how terrible they can be.”

Matt met Rhudi when they were both attending the High School of Glasgow and they quickly became close friends and were often found playing football together.  A year later, after numerous symptoms including headaches, sickness, nose bleeds and neck pain, Rhudi was diagnosed with a Grade 1 ganglioglioma. He had a 14-hour operation to remove the tennis ball sized tumour which left him with partial hearing, double vision and balance problems. Despite this, Matt and Rhudi spent as much time together as possible, including getting back to playing football when Rhudi was able to do so. Rhudi is now a Young Ambassdor for The Brain Tumour Charity so he is using his experience to help and support others as well as help raise awareness of our cause.

Rhudi said: “It was brilliant to see so many people come together and raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity at the fundraising events. The amount of money raised is astonishing and I know that it will go towards vital research to improve the prospects for people who have been diagnosed with brain tumours.”

Matt is also fundraising in memory of his brother Calum’s best friend, Murray, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour and passed away in 2019. The two families were very close due to a mutual love of tennis and their similar ages. Murray had one round of treatment but sadly the tumour returned, and he died shortly afterwards.

Matt said: “The Brain Tumour Charity is very close to my heart as I have seen the devastating impact this disease can have. It was awful seeing Rhudi so unwell but I remember how grateful he was just to be alive and losing Murray was utterly heartbreaking for everyone who knew and loved him.

“That is what is motivating me to help others who are going through a similar experience. I know how much the Charity’s support has helped Rhudi and Murray’s family so I want to help them to be in a position to do the same for others as well.”

As a member of the university tennis club and a founder of the Dundee Electronic Music Society, Matt brought both these clubs together for a club night fundraiser at the student union on Friday 25 March. They were joined by ‘Funktion’ who are currently popular on the Glasgow music scene. The cycle event earlier that day, accompanied by DJ Calum Mccabe, also attracted lots of attention with pedal power and additional sponsorships such as waxing the men’s legs and eating hot chillies raising even more money. The total is now at around £3,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity, smashing the target of £2,500.

Matt said: “I am so grateful to everyone who has supported my fundraising so far, it’s already doing better than I had expected which is great. I also think one of the most important things to come from this will be raising awareness of the early signs and symptoms of brain tumours. Early detection makes such a huge difference to treatment, side-effects and survival rates. It took Rhudi over a year for his brain tumour to be accurately diagnosed despite numerous trips to the GP. More awareness of the warning signs could make a huge difference.”

The Brain Tumour Charity’s HeadSmart campaign aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours in young people which include headaches, balance and coordination problems, sickness, problems with vision, abnormal head position or eye movements, fatigue and seizures. Since the launch of HeadSmart, diagnosis times amongst children and young people have reduced from 13 weeks to 6.5 weeks.

Anyone wishing to donate can visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/dutc and the Facebook livestream can be watched back here: https://www.facebook.com/m4ttygs/videos/262540662636386