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Guest blog: Lisa Addie shares her #TeamPurple marathon story

Posted on: January 16 2020

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As soon as I found out I had a place on #TeamPurple in the Virgin Money London Marathon 2020, I started telling everyone, and I mean everyone!

Setting up a JustGiving page makes sharing your fundraising story so easy. As soon as I had mine set up, I shared the link with friends, family, work colleagues, clients and suppliers at work, even the WhatsApp group that all the neighbours in my building are part of.

Spreading the excitement

Being passionate and truly caring about the cause you are running for is infectious. People feel it and get behind you because of it. Don’t worry about boring people, or get wrapped up in what they think about what you’re doing, as that’s not a productive use of your time and energy.

As well as donations from friends and family, I sold teams on a football scratch card. If you search ‘football scratch card’ on Amazon you can buy a pack of 10 for £3. I sold each team for £10, with £200 to go to the winner and £200 for MS-UK. I timed it to be drawn just before Christmas which I think helped get the squares sold. I’ll definitely be doing another card pre-race day.

I have also been in touch with my local community manager at Tesco to organise bag packing. I’ll be pushing for Easter weekend so that the shop will be a bit busier, and it’s not long before the race itself! I have linked up with a couple of other runners near me so that we can take this on together and have more of a presence in-store.

Running for my mum

My mum had secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Her left leg was worst affected, making walking a daily struggle.

She would often fall in public and be left humiliated and, of course, in pain. crop_0.png

In September 2013, she was admitted to hospital for an unrelated skin infection. On discharge she was largely bed bound as her MS became increasingly aggressive, spurred on by a weakened immune system. A combination of all of the above led to her suffering a pulmonary embolism and passing away on 26/09/13. I don’t need to tell anyone how hard losing a parent is. I am completely and utterly lost without my mum and, even six years on, it’s as rubbish as it was then!

I was too young, selfish and naïve to take control of the situation for mum. I want to run the London 2020 Marathon in memory of her and to raise funds for MS UK to be able to help others with MS because of this. MS is misunderstood, it affects everyone differently and is completely unpredictable. I want to play my part in changing this.

My top tips

If you’re training for a big run, get started on your fundraising as soon as you can so you can smash it out of the park early and focus on training

Talk to everyone about it. It will connect you with people in a way you would never have imagined.

Use social media. I’m documenting my training on Instagram (@healthylivinglisa_). It’s an amazing tool to get chatting to other runners and widen your network even further.

Get yourself into the Facebook group and connect with other MS-UK runners. There are also a few London Marathon Facebook groups with thousands of people to chat to and get tips from. 1_2.jpg

Not everyone has this opportunity, certainly not those that are badly affected with MS, so it’s important to recognise how much of a privilege we all have to be part of #TeamPurple and what an honour it is to spread awareness and take this challenge on.

600 length milestone!

Posted on: December 23 2019

Laura's swimming blog -Dad_0.jpgBack in October 2019 Laura launched her swimming challenge. She decided to swim 80km in memory of her dad. Now having reached the 10-week mark she has written this blog to update us on her progress 

Wow, I have been dedicated to my swim challenge for 10 weeks already, which has gone quick. That equals 600 lengths, which means I have swum 15,000m. Phew, that makes me feel quite exhausted thinking about it. Of my 80km target, I have now swum 15k.

The hardest part now we are in the midst of winter is leaving my nice warm house to go out in the dark cold evenings. I am trying to get to the pool a bit earlier in the evening to help with that. I haven’t missed a week and once I am there it’s become quite easy to get in the pool and churn out the lengths.

One week I wasn’t that well and didn’t manage the distance. I made up for it the following week though by going twice. I am so determined! I can get bored and distracted very easily so I feel proud of myself for sticking to it. For some reason, this feels different to anything else I’ve ever done and the reason I’m doing it is by far the biggest factor in keeping me going.

One week I did really struggle to get into any kind of flow and I couldn’t focus my mind no matter how hard I tried. Every length was tough and I was really frustrated. I kept going but it was a very slow swim. I put it behind me and realised it was likely because I’d had a busy weekend, (and possibly a few too many drinks with friends!). It made me realise the importance of looking after my body if I want to achieve the distance.

My Dad was a very determined person, with everything he did in his life. He didn’t let anything get in his way, including his multiple sclerosis (MS). I remind myself of this at various points when I’m swimming. If he could be that determined then surely I must have a bit of that in me too! It is him that drives me forward. This challenge has made me feel closer to him than I have felt for some time. Maybe as I am allowing myself the headspace each week rather than constantly being lost in the busyness that life brings.

As we approach our tenth Christmas without him, we will remember with smiles and celebrate the memories. Merry Christmas Dad!

If you would like to donate to Laura's fundraising please visit her Just Giving page. Thank you!

 

Why I am a MS-UK Community Champion!

Posted on: December 16 2019

Heather Swan.jpgMy name is Heather and I have been a Community Champion for MS-UK since April 2019.

I initially got involved with MS-UK when I volunteered at the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2018. I found it incredibly rewarding to be part of something that made such a difference to MS-UK and, I was so inspired by what the runners achieved, that I even took on the British 10k myself in March - and raised £300!

Since then I have gone on to complete the Colchester Half Marathon for MS-UK (raising a further £470) and volunteered at several fundraising events. When the opportunity arose to become a MS-UK Community Champion, I jumped at the chance.

I lead a very busy life and really don’t have as much time to give to charity as I’d like, but being a Community Champion means that I can help to raise money for MS-UK in my own time without too much of a commitment; it is completely flexible around my busy lifestyle.

I have seven collection pots placed at various shops in my local area, and I change them every 2-3 months when I am passing by. I find it so rewarding when I empty the collection pots and find out how much has been raised, the pennies really do add up! It’s also lovely to speak to the different shops about MS-UK and how they support people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), it’s surprising how many people have a connection to MS when you get talking, and I know by having these conversations I am helping to raise awareness for the charity.

If somebody is considering becoming a Community Champion for MS-UK, I would definitely recommend it. I always feel so valued and really feel that I am part of the MS-UK family. I know what I am doing is making a positive difference to those affected by MS and I’m proud to be out there with my MS-UK ID badge on!

If you would like to be part of something special and become a Community Champion like Heather, get in touch with Lucy on 01206 226500 or Lucy@MS-UK.org to find out more!

Fundraiser of the Month: “I said I wouldn’t run another half marathon…”

Posted on: December 16 2019

Grandad.jpgWhen you think you won't get the fundraising bug and you do... Lauren Chrimes does it for grandad!

I began fundraising for MS-UK back in 2017. It was an obvious choice of charity as my grandad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when he was younger and lived with it for many years.

Pretty much all of my memories of my grandad, minus any earlier photos are of him living with MS. Really you know no different when you are younger, and for my brother and me, this was normal. A more vivid and charming memory is how he would always have a tin of humbug sweets which we would help ourselves to whenever we visited him. 

I have always wanted to run a half marathon. Saying that I have always wanted to say I have completed a full marathon, but expectation and reality are worlds apart. A good, or not so good starting point was to sign up to a half marathon when on a sun lounger, with a cocktail, in Mexico and forced myself into training upon my return. I thought if I’m signed up, I’m committed, and I really was committed to raising as much money as possible in honour of my grandad and for such an amazing charity. 

The training was going well, it was hard and I was often faced with the mentality of “I’ll do it tomorrow”, but I was gradually getting my runs in and my miles up. Ultimately I wasn’t too fussed about hitting a certain time or pace, for me it was about the finish line, not finish time. My goal was to post as much as I could on social media, text as many people as I knew and keep sharing the event with as many people as possible. 

In October 2017, I ran, completed, and surprisingly didn’t pass out after my first half marathon. It was hard work! The atmosphere was amazing, and the supporters throughout the race were incredible, especially those handing out Jelly Babies! I hit a wall on the ninth mile but continued with some kind of walk/run. I thought of how proud my grandad would have been to have seen me, and to have known I was running for the charity. Not only that, but some people don’t have a choice in their abilities and limitations because of their health. I should be ecstatic that I have the ability to finish a race and for such a good cause! 

After the race, I said I wasn’t going to run another half marathon, but I would raise money for MS-UK in other ways. 

May 2019, I signed up for my second half marathon....! 

Same thoughts, same struggles, but through amazing friends and family and sponsorship I have been able to raise over £1,200 across both runs. I said I wouldn’t run another half marathon, but I guess I’ll be at the start line in 2020. Wish me luck! 

If you would like to donate to Lauren's amazing efforts, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lauren-chrimes2. Thank you! If you, like Lauren, want to take on a new challenge, call Lucy on 01206 226500 or email lucy@ms-uk.org

MS-UK fundraiser shares her creative ideas for raising funds

Posted on: December 12 2019

IMG_20191117_091339_343.jpgSarah Creed shares some of her fundraising experiences from the last few months and a few tips in the lead up to Christmas

Guess the time!

I was lucky enough to get a place in the New York Marathon and I decided to run a ‘guess my time’ competition, which required people to make a £2 donation and their guess. The prize was a £50 John Lewis voucher and the person who guessed the closest to my finishing time won the voucher. We managed to raise more than £260 and a lot of people donated more than the £2 minimum. It created more of a buzz and I had lots of people tracking me on the way. If you are doing any races before London marathon you could do the same thing. I've had another £50 restaurant voucher donated too so I will do the same for my Virgin Money London Marathon time.
 

Pub quiz
We also ran a charity pub quiz. The pub gave us their function room for free and my husband wrote the quiz for me. We charged £2 per person and had a raffle on the night. I sent off hundreds of emails to companies using the MS-UK letter and my own one I wrote using the London marathon letter template and had reasonable success. The most generous companies are the local ones so definitely get out there and ask and give them good press in return. It was a really fun night and we raised over £300 too.

 

Name the bear
Currently, we are running a name the Teddy bear contest in time for Christmas. I have a beautiful hand made Bear that I am giving people the chance to name. For £1 they can pick a name from the list of 50, for £2 they can pick add a name of their choosing to be added to the draw. The latter has had a fantastic response with people trying to outdo each other on who can come up with the funniest name.

Party!

Lastly, we are organising a charity ball for March with a sit-down meal, DJ and raffle. I have found the best way to get donations is to really get a buzz about what you are doing and promote constantly with deadlines as people always think 'I'll do that later'. I try to make everything I write engaging, humorous and relevant so those donating feel involved in the process and share in celebrating the successes.
 

A final tip
I have also found that having a slightly lower minimum donation has increased the amount of interest I get and often people donate more than I am asking anyway.

I hope these ideas help with everyone's fundraising and you all have a lovely Christmas!

If you would like to donate to Sarah’s Just Giving page, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Sarah-Creed4.

How I ran a marathon for MS-UK and my country

Posted on: December 10 2019

Chris Rayner turned his life around in his mid-30s and competed beyond his wildest dreams 

Watching athletics with my Dad when Seb Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram flew the flag for our country is one of my earliest sporting memories. However, if you had told me back in 1983 that I would one day pull on my country’s colours in competition, I would have found that hard to believe. Skip forward to October 2019 and I found myself Chris Rayner - England.jpgproudly slipping into my England vest ahead of the Yorkshire Marathon!

The beginnings

During my early 30s, as is often the case, I’d put on a bit of weight and didn’t really exercise. I was stuck all day behind the wheel of a car as a sales rep, and my eating habits weren’t the best.

The big change happened when my marriage failed. I began jogging to try and do something positive. It’s well known that running can really boost mental health, and I was feeling a bit lonely. A friend suggested I go along with her to an event organised by Chiltern Runners. I became a regular.

I was adamant I would never enter a race, but one night, after several post-run beers, I was persuaded to enter the 2013 Leeds Abbey Dash 10k and, during the same beer session, declared I’d be able to do it in under 40 minutes. I didn’t even have a running watch back then so decided I’d better train hard, and crossed the finish line in 39 minutes 22 seconds. I was hooked!

The accident

The excitement of Leeds was short lived, however. A few days later I was in an awful car accident near Aberdeen which saw me upside down in a field. A week later my spleen ruptured, which resulted in major abdominal surgery to save my life. I felt lucky and so thankful to be alive and was desperate to get back to running to put events behind me. Six weeks after surgery and now minus my spleen, I cautiously took part in the South Manchester parkrun and it felt great to be back.

My first marathon

The next huge event in my running story was, again, after a few beers when I was persuaded to enter the 2016 Manchester Marathon. I woke the following morning thinking I’d made a terrible mistake, but then I promised myself I would dedicate the next three months to doing every single run on the plan, come rain, sun, snow or sleet.

I stood on the start line that sunny April morning knowing that I could not have done any more and that, whatever happened in the race, I had already achieved the real value the marathon. The icing on the cake was that after a rather frantic sprint to the finish line, my watch said 2 hours, 59 minutes and 57 seconds!

Going international

After that, there was no stopping me and I competed in the prestigious Boston Marathon, then Venice, then London, and then the Chester Marathon. I managed to finish in under 2 hours 45 minutes and, a week later, I received an email to say I’d qualified to represent England Masters in the 2019 Yorkshire Marathon!

My first charity marathon

It was going to be a proud day for me pulling on an England vest in my home county with my parents watching. I decided to use the occasion to do some good and considered running for charity, something I had not done previously. My grandfather Thomas Rayner had multiple sclerosis (MS) and died before I was born. I knew my father and uncle would be very delighted if I ran to support an MS charity and I chose MS-UK because of the fabulous support they provide to people living with the illness, including friends and work colleagues. Having set up a Just Giving page, I was amazed when £1,000 was donated in just 48 hours and £1,500 in total was pledged. I am fortunate to have some very generous friends and family.

The big day

The day itself was amazing. Lining up with my England colleagues for the team photo made it suddenly seem very real, but I quickly got my race head on as I had a job to do. I had my girlfriend and friends cheering me at the start and knew my parents would be at mile 14/15. Despite having had a few issues in training was determined to give it my all. 

Standing alongside my Chorlton team mate Matt in the start pen, we wished each other luck and waited for the off. The conditions were pretty good – dry, cool, but a bit windy in places. I went out hard in the early stages and waited for the wheels to fall off, but got to halfway feeling good.  

The shout of “Go on England!” from my mum gave me a boost at 15 miles, but a mile later, I started cramping a bit in my left hamstring. Fortunately, I managed to get rid of the cramp but lost touch with the group I had been running in, which meant running into the wind on my own, which is hard both physically and mentally. 

The marathon is a massive mental game – you have so much time out there where you need to maintain form and focus and also remain hard in the head. Fortunately, Yorkshire folk are famed for this! The last six miles are always a battle in every marathon – they often say it’s a 20 mile warm up for a six mile race. I kept thinking of the finish line, all the people who I knew would be tracking my progress, the people who had sponsored me, and I shut out the message from my body that was saying Stop!

Two miles to go and my pace had just dipped a touch between 20 and 24 miles, but I rallied myself and knew I had this race and another personal best was within my grasp. With half a mile to go, the organisers kindly put a short but sharp hill in your way, but you know when you crest it you have a 400 meter downhill run to the finish. My cheer squad was placed on that hill and I flew up it, then belted it down to the finish line as the commentator called my name over the public address. I crossed the line, arm aloft, in a new best of 2 hours, 40 minutes and 51 seconds.

It is only when you finish a marathon that you realise how much pain you are in and you go from sprinting to the line to suddenly finding it hard to walk! However, I am so lucky to be able to enjoy my sport and it serves as a great reminder that things I sometimes take for granted are not so easy for others. Whilst I am very proud of my progress from taking up running in my late 30s to running for England in my mid-40s, the amazing donations I raised for MS-UK was the something that meant the day was truly special.

Businesses raise over £14,500 working 9 to 5 for MS-UK

Posted on: December 02 2019

A big congratulations to all the UK businesses who celebrated their fundraising success at the MS-UK 925 Challenge awards night on 28 November! Together they rasied over £14,500 for the charity!

Now in its second year, the challenge saw companies take part in a race against time to raise £925 in nine weeks, two days, and five hours.

Ready and raring to go, Essex-based print, design and mailing company, Direct Solutions, spead off into the lead and were the first to raise the target, and went on to raise the most money overall, totalling £2,118.

The 925 challenge participants on Awards nightOther teams that took part include 4 Networking, Chameleon International Search Ltd, Click4Assistance Ltd, Green Square, Hart Wilcox Experiential Marketing, HSBC, Natwest, Scrutton Bland, Women In Business Neworking and Wivenhoe House Hotel. All of the teams were congratulated and thanked for their hard work at an awards ceremony at Marks Tey Hotel on Thursday 28 November.

Commenting on their win, Louise Parkes, Digital Marketing Executive at Direct Solutions said: ‘We took part in the 925 Challenge for MS-UK for the second year and were absolutely delighted to take home the trophy for the fastest team to raise the £925 and for the most money raised overall.

‘The challenge is such a creative and clever way of fundraising against the clock, add in the competitive elements between local and national businesses and you have a recipe for success!’

Sasha Mills from HSBC said, ‘MS-UK is a charity that is very close to my heart following my husband’s diagnosis in 2017. Since being introduced to MS-UK they have provided invaluable support through various means such as mindfulness courses, its wellness centre Josephs Court and the social events they put on so that we can meet other families living with MS.

‘When I heard about the 925 Challenge I was keen to get involved and enter a team from HSBC UK, as not only are they important to me personally, they are also a client of HSBC UK. I wanted to get involved to help support MS-UK not only by raising money but also awareness. MS is a condition that affects so many people, it is important to spread the word about the fantastic work the charity does. The 925 Challenge was great fun and it was a great way to have some fun and team building in the office with our pumpkin carving competition and bingo!’

Lots of fun was had by all 13 companies, with leg waxing, curry and karaoke nights, banner offers, ice bucket challenges, bake sales and much more taking place to raise the money. Lots of teamwork and creative thinking was required to come up with the winning ideas, with the motivational boost of helping people with MS.

Thanking everyone for their support MS-UK Fundraising Manager, Jill Purcell said: ‘It was lovely to see so many companies at the awards event last night. A huge well done to all the teams and congratulations to those that took away a trophy. Your efforts will help us to continue supporting people with multiple sclerosis to live happier and healthier lives.’

There were a number of awards up for grabs for this challenge and these are the winners of the different catagories:

Team Spirit Award

Awarded to Click4Assistance Ltd.

 

Outstanding Individual

Alison Deal (Women in Business Networking)

 

Best Photo / Video

Hart Wilcox Experiential Marketing

 

Most Innovative Idea

Green Square

 

Quirkiest Fundraising Idea         

HSBC

 

Most Unlikely Hero

Chris Ives (4Networking)

 

LOL Award

Scrutton Bland

 

Most Money Raised

Direct Solutions

 

First Team To Raise £925

Direct Solutions

 

Help MS-UK for free this cyber Monday!

Posted on: December 02 2019

UK_AmazonSmile_Logos_RGB_black+orange_SMALL-ONLY.png

There are only 22 days left until Christmas and, if you’re anything like us here at MS-UK, you’ll be wondering what on earth to buy for your loved ones.

If that’s the case, listen up. Today is known as Cyber Monday, a term coined in the US for when retailers have huge online sales in a bid to get us all clicking and, if you plan to nab some bargains, you could help raise money for MS-UK at no extra cost – what’s not to love?

Retail giant Amazon runs a scheme called Amazon Smile and, if you sign up and choose MS-UK as your nominated charity, they will donate 0.5% of the net purchase price (excluding VAT, returns and shipping fees) to our charity, providing MS-UK is selected as the beneficiary.

This means that by just shopping normally, you will be generating money that allows us to continue to help people with MS live happier and healthier lives, through our services such as the MS-UK helpline, Counselling, New Pathways magazine and our wellness centre Josephs Court.

How to sign up

1) Log onto https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ch/1033731-0 using your usual Amazon log in details

2) This will take you to a screen where you can search and select MS-UK as your chosen charity

3) Start shopping!

Doing the Tough Mudder for Nanny

Posted on: November 20 2019

This guest blog is from Poppy Storey, aged seven, from Kent, who did the Tough Mudder with her brother Heath. Poppy’s mother, Helaina, is running the Virgin Money London Marathon 2020 for MS-UK too. The Storeys really are a force to be reckoned with!

Poppy at Tough MudderMy name is Poppy. My brother Heath and I raised £420 towards Mummy’s goal by doing a Tough Mudder. We had to run and go over lots of obstacles and we got really, really muddy!

I wanted to raise money for MS-UK so my Nanny can get better. My Nanny is really kind. I want everyone with multiple sclerosis (MS) to be happy and get well soon.

My favourite obstacle was the tunnel because going through it was really fun and it was like I ended up at a different place at the other end. It was really mysterious!

I didn’t really like the monkey bars as much because they were really hard to go on and Heath had to lift me and my hands were so muddy they kept slipping off, so it didn’t work. My little sister Imogen ran round everywhere with us but not in the track, obviously. She ran next to us at every obstacle and she was very excited.

A really funny part was when I couldn’t feel my legs because all the mud went into my trousers because when we went on Mud Mountain, every time I went down the hill I fell down into the water and started to float and it felt really weird.

One of the obstacles, Everest, was funny because I kept slipping down it and I got some mud in my eye when Heath tried to pull me up. He poked me in the eye with his muddy hand and Mummy poured water into my eye and scooped it out with her finger! Mummy said I was so brave and we got a treat at the end which was a sherbet ice cream and it was really sour.

At the end we got hosed off at the water station and my trousers were so heavy I couldn’t walk to the car!

Mummy told her friends to sponsor us and our school put it in the newsletter so our friends could sponsor us too. Daddy said we did such a good job and he donated another fifty pounds!

It was really fun and I was actually very surprised how much money we raised. We loved our MS-UK vests and even Mummy has one with her name on for the marathon. Go Team Purple!

Why I came up with my own event to support MS-UK

Posted on: November 14 2019

Andy Fiore blog pic.jpgI was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2010 and was pretty much directed to use the services of the MS Society by the NHS Neurology department. Their help was very much appreciated at the time as MS was all new for me.

Now, although I still have a lot of respect for the work and the people of the MS Society, I find that I want a more active life than their local members seemed to have. I wanted ‘To live life to the full’, which is pretty much MS-UK’s slogan - as I was about to find out.

I discovered MS-UK by chance while searching the web for more information on MS and as luck would have it, their head office just happened to be down the road at the Hythe in Colchester - another big plus in their favour from my point of view as transport could become a problem in the future.

The MS-UK premises boasts a fully-equipped wellness centre for people with MS and other neurological conditions, and I began using the specialist facilities (mainly exercise bikes) under the guidance of their wellness coach, Allan Pearson. The exercise helps prevent muscle problems that would otherwise occur with lack of use, as well as helping my brain to keep active.

Another benefit of attending the MS-UK gym is that it also promotes friendship with fellow MSers, although each person’s symptoms are unique to them.

The camaraderie with other MSers is further enhanced with regular events, coffee mornings, 10-pin bowling and other get-togethers, as well as with special opportunities, such as marathons, sponsored skydiving and aeroplane wing-walking!

There always seems to be something happening somewhere with an MS-UK logo on it as a way to raise money for the charity.

Additionally, MS-UK has a helpline staffed by fully qualified people, with direct experience of MS, offering strictly confidential on any subject over the phone.

MS-UK also hosts information sessions on different topics and invites companies and charities offering specific help on that topic, recently Age Concern and Mobility came in to offer information.

Fundraising for MS-UK’

With all this wealth of MS-related help practically on my doorstep, what’s not going to make me want to raise a few pounds to help MS-UK, which also gives me some purpose in life and is very important to me.

Up until my diagnosis with MS, I was an active bass guitarist in a few bands playing anything from Jazz to Blues to Pop. None of these bands you’ll have heard of but it was a passion of mine for over 25 years. This is what started the making of Virtuosity in aid of MS-UK.

Although I can no longer play the guitar myself, the one thing that MS will never take away from me is my passion for quality music. Promoting live music events wouldn’t be too time-constrained either, so I could take my time to set up live performances and make use of my experience and contacts in the industry.

Could this be the fundraising opportunity that I was looking for? I had to try it to find out.

In 2017, I decided to set about organising my first live music event and called it ‘Virtuosity in aid of MS-UK’ as it featured three of the best musicians that I’d ever played with: Chris Allard, Ramon Goose and Daryl Kellie. It took place at Colchester Arts Centre, whose director has a disabled daughter and therefore some empathy with the MS-UK cause. I donated all the profits to MS-UK as a thank you for their services to me in the past.

The following year, I discovered an Australian musician on social media called Geoff Achison and was pleased to find out that he had a tour of the UK lined up with some session musicians from West London that I had been fortunate enough to jam with in the past. I had no hesitation in booking Geoff Achison and the Souldiggers, with support from the very talented and once local solo blues guitarist Martin McNeill. As this was likely to be a major gig, I also got the audio-visual department at Colchester Institute involved to come and make a video of the performance, which they were pleased to do as part of their project work.

While keeping my eyes open for exciting new acts, at the beginning of 2019, I came across the incredible voice of a young lady named Helen Connelly.

‘That’s someone I’ve got to promote in another Virtuosity event’ - I thought!

The only problem was that Helen’s regular guitarist wasn’t available for the date I had in mind at Wivenhoe Bowls Club (a new local venue that I also wanted to promote) but, not to be put off, I asked my old friend and jazz guitarist Chris Allard if he would step in to help out. To complete the evening’s entertainment, I enlisted the services of Polly Haynes, a local singer/songwriter and a fantastic performer in her own right.

Lessons learned and overall satisfaction

It would be fair to say that I ran into a few problems along the way that I’ve needed help from MS-UK and others with. Everyone has to learn from their experience though, and each day with MS is a new experience to learn from.

The overall satisfaction that I’ve had from putting on these events and finally accepting the MS-UK certificate of fundraising for all my hard work has made it all well worth the effort.

Unfortunately, one of my MS symptoms was paraesthesia of the lower arms and hands, taking away the use of my fingers for manual work and stopping me playing the guitar completely. This was accompanied by other MS symptoms of chronic fatigue, poor memory and cognitive problems, which meant that whatever I did would take a lot longer to achieve than for a normal person, but I did it!

Andy raised £158.32 from his latest Virtuosity event for MS-UK – Thank you, Andy!

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