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Phil puts his best foot forward to help his big brother

Student Phil Merchant is taking brotherly love to the extreme this month when he takes part in the London Marathon to raise money for research into the condition which is affecting his older sibling.

Phil, 26, who will join thousands of runners for the event on April 22, is running in aid of Ataxia UK. Phil’s brother Sam, 31, from Yate, suffers from Ataxia, a neurological condition which affects his speech, hearing, mobility and coordination.

“I’m new to running, but I wanted to get fit and support Ataxia UK at the same time, so this seemed a good way to do it,” said Phil, who lives in London and is a PhD student. “I’ve been training for about five months and have taken part in a half-marathon. I’m confident I’ll be able to complete the race and I hope to raise about £1,500.”

Fundraising isn’t new to the Merchant family. A few years ago Sam, who is now confined to a wheelchair, completed a skydive to support Ataxia UK.

“I was diagnosed with Ataxia when I was 20 and at university, but I had been showing the symptoms from the age of 12,” said Sam. “There is no cure for the condition, so Ataxia UK supports research into the disease and also helps by providing grants for sufferers, for things like mobility aids.”

Sam lives in a specially adapted home and is supported by homecare provider DoCare, whose team visit him three times a day. The company, based in Stroud, is sponsoring Phil and also encouraging members of staff to make a donation.

DoCare Managing Director Steve Mills said: “Sam is a very popular client and it’s a pleasure to be able to support him, and enable him to retain his independence and live at home.”

Sam, along with his sister Suzie and parents Ann and Clive, will travel to London for the big race and to cheer Phil on. Anyone wanting to sponsor Phil can do so through www.justgiving.com/philmerchant.