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Bristol medical student awarded MBE after Olympic-themed fundraising for motor neurone disease charity

Charlotte Nichols at Windosr Castle - University of Bristol

By Milan Perera, News Writer

In the latest Honours List, University of Bristol student Charlotte Nichols was awarded an MBE for the services to charity.  

The fourth year medical student was awarded with the honour by the Princess Royal at a special ceremony held at Windsor Castle on February 28. Nichols and her friend Stuart Bates raised more than £185,000 in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) in an Olympic themed fundraiser during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. The pair took part in 102 unofficial parallel Olympic events during the process.

The MBE - Milan Perera

Bates was also made an MBE for his part in the fundraiser but was unable to attend the event due to Ill health. They coined the Olympian fundraising campaign, ‘the Spennylympics’  in memory of Bates' brother Spencer who passed away from motor neurone disease.

Charlotte Nichols - University of Bristol

Nichols and Bates originally set a target of £10,000 for the nominated charity, but in her own words, she was ‘overwhelmed’ by the response from well wishers and the media where they clocked up a final tally of over £185,000. In a time frame of 17 days the pair took part in 102 events which included horse riding, swimming, triathlon, marathon and pole vault.

Charlotte Nichols and Stuart Bates training for synchronised swimming - University of Bristol

Epigram spoke to a delighted Nichols on her recent honour and her life at the University of Bristol. When we asked about the event itself at Windsor Castle she recounted how she was excited to be receiving the honour from Princess Anne who is heavily invested in the cause as the Patron of Scotland Rugby, especially following the passing of ‘Doddie’ Weir. According to her, it was of little surprise that Princess Royal inquired about her equestrian pursuits. Nichols attended the ceremony with her parents Sally and Steve, and sister Ciara.

Charlotte with her parents Sally and Steve

The training and preparation for the events had been challenging due to the sheer scale of the project and she thanked University of Bristol for its unequivocal support throughout.

When we asked which prompted her to chose something as challenging as ‘the Spennylympics’ in order to raise funds for MNDA, she responded that she wanted to make it ‘special’ and ‘memorable’. The collective endeavours of Nichols and Bates were picked up by media outlets in 50 different countries and she could not be any happier for the coverage.

Charlotte Nichols with her mom Sally and sister Ciara

As a medical student she is of the view that the research into motor neurone disease has advanced in leaps and bounds over the years but there is still significant ground to be made and hence the importance of further funding for research.

Nichols, 23, is an active member of the university women’s rugby scene where she takes part in both playing and coaching, also having represented Ireland in touch rugby at the European Championship.

She plans to become an orthopaedic surgeon once graduated, based in either her native Oxfordshire or Bristol.

Charlotte Nichols MBE - Milan Perera

Continuing with her fundraising efforts, she will be taking part in the annual CLICendales event at the O2 Academy where University of Bristol medical students will be raising funds for the charity Young Lives vs Cancer (CLIC Sargent) in a sold-out strip show.

Charlotte Nichols completing her clinical studies - Charlotte Nichols

When we asked Charlotte Nichols about her next prospective fundraising idea, she chuckled and said, ‘may be a Winter Olympic themed one!’