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Finding a cure for paralysis

305. David Nicholls

A loving father from Kent who has raised over £2.5 million to fund research into a cure for paralysis to help his son walk again.

David Nicholls, 58, set up the charity after his son Daniel, swam into a wave on Bondi Beach on his gap year in 2003 and hit a hidden sandbank and broke his neck. Daniel was left paralysed from the neck down and David promised his son he would try to find a cure for paralysis.

David set up the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (NSIF) in 2005 when he found that there were few charities dedicated solely to developing a cure for paralysis. The charity aims to fund research and development into curing spinal injury, fund rehab for patients where there is a cure and educate the general public into the causes of spinal injuries and disease. Last year pioneering surgery the Foundation helped to fund made headlines when a Polish man who had been completely paralysed was able to walk again.

As Group Director of Food and Beverage at the Mandarin Oriental, David enlisted the help of top chefs including Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay to create the cookbook Off Duty which sold 800,000 copies and raised over £400k. Today, the charity has a list of patrons including former Welsh rugby player Ieuan Evans, Richard Branson, Gordon Ramsay, Jeffrey Archer and Heston Blumenthal, the charity has raised a staggering £2.85m.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“When David made the incredible promise to his son Daniel that he would one day reverse his paralysis, few people believed that he could make that a reality.  But the £2.5m the Nicholls Spinal Injury foundation has raised has already changed one life unimaginably by enabling a paralysed man to walk again. And this extraordinary surgical advance has the potential to change many more lives in the most profound way. The whole country should be proud of the work David’s foundation has made possible and I am pleased to able to name David as the UK’s 305th Point of Light.”

David said of being awarded a Point of Light:

‘Receiving this award is a great achievement for everyone associated to the charity. We are on the cusp of medical history where hopefully we will be able to announce that paralysis is possibly curable. I am delighted that the British government are looking to support the project. We have for the last ten years worked passionately to raise money for research into a cure for spinal injury and this is really thanks to all the supporters of NSIF.

“When my son Daniel broke his neck in a swimming accident I made him a promise that he will one day walk again and I am very hopeful that one day I will fulfil the promise I made to Dan.’

MP for Orpington Jo Johnson said:

“I am delighted to offer my congratulations to Mr David Nicholls on being named a Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron. This is a fantastic achievement recognising an outstanding individual who is inspiring others and is making a significant contribution to our community.

Developing a cure for paralysis is an incredibly good cause and I am very pleased that Mr Nicholls has been recognised in this way for his excellent contribution to our community.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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