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My experience as a volunteer has ranged from physical challenges to now sitting on the board of MS-UK

Posted on: June 05 2020

Charlie Stebbings pic_0.jpgMS-UK has been close to my heart for 10 years after my mother was diagnosed with MS in 2009. As a 15-year-old, I struggled to comprehend what this really meant, certainly in the long term, and how best to help her through what was happening. My experience as a volunteer has ranged from physical challenges to now sitting on the board of MS-UK. Being a ‘volunteer’ means different things to different people and I wanted to share my thoughts on this special week to appreciate those who give their time to causes most in need of their amazing support.

Personally, I see  volunteering as a contribution to a cause that holds deep resonance. Volunteering is such a powerful concept because it presents itself as a means of contribution that anyone can undertake, for any reason, while leaving a positive impact on the identified community. I see it as a collective, the lifeblood of charities and their success. It brings together a group of people giving their time in any way they can to improve the lives of those most in need of support. It brings out the best in communities and is a unifying concept in situations that often create feelings of detachment. 

I wanted to leave behind that feeling of helplessness and I felt by doing something that would help my mother but also the wider MS community. I was drawn to a cause for a very specific reason looking to support an individual and did not realise how far that contribution extends. Those closest to us benefit from the process, but the money raised/time given is felt by the entire community, and that is something that gives me greater motivation.

Volunteering for MS-UK started for me and my family with physical challenges: I have cycled to Barcelona and Paris over the last few years, my brother has done the marathon, my aunt has completed some crazy challenges that wouldn’t cross most of our minds! This was a means of contribution that proves so important to every charity and allows for both fun and very sore legs in the process.

The opportunity to sit on the board and take up a more regular and ‘back office’ position has given me complete appreciation of the incredible work behind the scenes that goes into making a charity like MS-UK possible. I have met some of our amazing volunteers who give their time to enable a small charity like ours to prosper, and their dedication and enthusiasm is essential to our success.

Being able to come together and be part of a cause driven by acts of selflessness is a very powerful concept. We all have our own ways of contributing. We all have our own reasons for doing so. The reasons and methods vary but the collective goal is what gives us a strong sense of togetherness and community, and that is what volunteering is all about.

Being a part of this community means a great deal to me and volunteering for MS-UK is something I want to continue doing for many years!

I wanted to help a local charity

Posted on: June 05 2020

Allen Ball pic_0.jpgMy name is Allen Ball and I got involved with MS-UK because my mum was affected by MS before she sadly passed away. I also wanted to help a local charity, helping people in my community. I initially ran the London Marathon in 2017 for MS-UK, and since then I have continued helping in a number of ways - volunteering at larger events like the London Marathon and Asics 10k, as well as smaller ones such as a fund raiser at a local pub.

Over the last couple of months during lockdown I have been trying to raise a little more for MS-UK as I know all charities have taken a hit with their big fundraising events being cancelled. For 2.6 I walked the equivalent of 2.6 times up the Gherkin on a set of steps (which turned out to be harder than a lot of the running I have done). Also, a friend of mine knitted a Myles mascot for me, which I have raffled.

Whenever I have turned up for an event, I have always been made to feel welcome and I now feel like a member of the MS-UK family. We are all a friendly bunch!

Last year I even won a prize for my volunteering, ‘Room To Reward’, which gives me a free hotel stay somewhere in the next few months.

If you are considering volunteering for MS-UK I can really recommend it, and you would be more than welcome.

Introducing Sophia, our Seven-year-old cheer-point superstar!

Posted on: June 03 2020

large_Sophia Dawkins pic.jpgHello, my name is Sophia, I am Seven years old and I care a lot about MS-UK - It feels cool knowing I’m MS-UK’s youngest volunteer! I started volunteering because I like helping MS-UK and I want to help people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), I want them to feel happy and have a smile on their face. My great aunty Loraine has MS and she isn’t very well. I started by helping her, but I also want to help other people too.

I started volunteering for the MS-UK cheer-point cheerers when I went to watch my mum run the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2017. My dad and I cheered with Jenny at mile 17. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do it again! Sometimes it gets cold standing around but I don’t make a fuss because the cheering is more important!

The best bit of volunteering is cheering everyone on at events, especially when I’m allowed to use the megaphone! I like to cheer all the runners, “Well done runners! You can do this! Do not stop! The quicker you do it, the quicker it’s over!”. I also like to look out for the purple t-shirts so I can shout MS-UK! And one time Jenny bought me chips so that might be the best thing that’s happened at an event!

Volunteering is very fulfilling and keeps my brain active!

Posted on: June 03 2020


large_Nigel Watts pic_0.jpgI am Nigel Watts and as I am unable to participate in “walks” or “runs” to raise funds for MS-UK, instead I have volunteered my time, either at home or in the MS-UK office, to help with identifying potential 3rd parties to approach for future funding and to provide taxi transport for some of the clients who attend its wellness centre, Josephs Court. I have also contributed to the existing Choices leaflets, proofreading for consistency, grammar and spelling.

In addition, I have completed an MS-UK Helpline case study and I am one of the founding members of the MS-UK Steering Group which meets every two months. Even under the current lockdown measures, we still meet using Zoom!

The MS-UK Steering Group is made up of seven volunteers who use Josephs Court and is led by Centre Manager Dean Jeffreys. The purpose of the MS-UK Steering Group is to discuss how the centre is working to satisfy the needs of members who use the facility, any suggestions of improvement or change. It is also a great place to just chat about life in general. Anything discussed in the group stays in the group.

Outside of Josephs Court, I am still able to volunteer through putting together mailing lists online for MS nurses, neurologists, MS therapy centres and pharmacies.

I have found my time volunteering both at home and at Josephs Court very fulfilling as the challenges have kept my brain working. Volunteering is also a pleasant change from playing Solitaire or Sudoku!

Gavin King ran 26.26km for MS-UK with a heavy yellow twist!

Posted on: April 30 2020


I woke up on Sunday 26 April, London Marathon day, or at least it should have been! It should have been the 40th anniversary of the event. I thought about those who should have been taking part, the months of training, the moments of pain and the little victories along the way. I picked up my phone with my cup of tea and started catching up on the social media updates when I came across an MS-UK post on Facebook “The 2.6 challenge, Save the UK's charities, 1 Day to go”,  and it was posted yesterday meaning launch day was today!

I dropped a quick comment to ask if it was too late to sign up and on hearing I wasn’t too late, I quickly started thinking about what I could do. I glanced around and saw the face of the famous Pokémon Pikachu painted on the side of my beer barrel from a previous event, he looked at me smugly from across the room and my challenge started to come together.

I decided that I was going to dust him off and carry him while running 26.26km, in keeping with the 2.6 challenge. I set up my JustGiving page and told the world about my challenge for MS-UK.

It got to 5pm and as I was walking to my start line I check my JustGiving page to see I had already raised over £200, which was the perfect little boost I needed before setting off!

At 5km in my elbows were already screaming at me, I had some water and a bit of flapjack and set off up the river path. I negotiate the barrel into different positions to ease the pain on the elbows. If I held it in one hand over my back it bounced on my shoulder blades, in front of me it banged on my hips, two hands behind my head and my elbows filled with pain, there just isn't a comfortable way to carry that thing! I focused on all the reasons I was doing this, I'm running this for my parents, I'm running it for those that can't, I'm running it to raise vital funds for a charity that is due to lose out. This isn't about me or my challenge, it's about them.IMG_20200426_185010.jpg

I reached the half way point and pulled out my phone to find messages of support, I snapped a quick photo, picked up my barrel and continued my run feeling a little more refreshed from those encouraging words. I saw a family ahead and moved well over to let them pass, but really I was grateful for a short rest. As they passed I heard, “You do realise they make smaller water bottles mate?” It made me smile and once they'd passed I carried on, getting ever closer to the end of my journey.

Three hours after I had set off, the sun had started to set in the sky and I was just 3km from the finish. I took one quick photo with the sunset and then I picking up my pace because I knew I was almost there. Literally on the home stretch now and running towards my house, barrel in front of me, I was regularly checking my watch for distance. I watched the numbers tick over… 25.90, 26.00, 26.10, 26.2... 26.26km, I was there! It was done! My hands felt bruised, my legs tired and I felt like what I had just achieved was harder than the marathon itself. I checked JustGiving again to find the total was now over £300! I was astonished at the generosity from friends, family and even social media followers.

It was then time for a bath and a cup of tea! I feel happy to know I've helped my charity in their time of need.

If you would like to make a donation to Gavin’s fundraising page visit his JustGiving page here.

7 Accessible challenge ideas for the 2.6 Challenge

Posted on: April 22 2020

Fundraising Team 2019.jpg

The 2.6 Challenge is set to take place this Sunday (26 April 2020). It is open to everyone and the more people that get involved the better. The great thing about this fun fundraising challenge is that it is accessible to all! Here, our fundraising team have come up with seven great ideas to inspire you to take part.

  1. Walk, wheel, jog, skip, hop, lift or run 2.6 metres, miles, kg or minutes

  2. Complete 26 laps of your garden or living room, just like war veteran Tom Moore

  3. Flip a pancake 26 times

  4. Learn how to say ‘Hello’ in 26 languages or maybe even a sponsored silence

  5. Make a presentation on a topic you enjoy and talk for 26 minutes

  6. Bake 26 cupcakes – maybe deliver them to your family/neighbours, making sure to follow social distancing guidelines

  7. Have a 26-hour ‘readathon’ – how many books can you read during this time?

Please get involved and do something to support MS-UK in a really fun, simple and positive way.

Once you have chosen your challenge all you have to do is follow these simple steps

  1. Dream up your challenge based around the numbers 26 or 2.6

  2. Set up your fundraising challenge page here

  3. Complete your challenge this Sunday

  4. Share your pictures and videos with your family and friends on your social media channels, encourage them to donate to your page and don’t forget to tag us!

And that’s it, your efforts have made a big difference out our charity and the people living with multiple sclerosis that we support! With many fundraising events being cancelled or postponed, we have seen our main sources of income dry-up almost overnight. Our services are needed even more now than before, ensuring people living with multiple sclerosis are still able to access the support they need now more than ever. Please help us to be there for the MS community today, tomorrow and for many years to come so we can ensure that no one has to face MS alone.

Thank you!

Can you help save UK charities like MS-UK?

Posted on: April 20 2020

Jill head short.pngHi there!
We hope that you and your family are well in this difficult time.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a catastrophic effect on UK charities leading to an estimated loss of £4 billion for the sector. Charities depend on income from fundraising events and thousands have been cancelled or postponed. For many charities, including MS-UK, the 26 April would have been the biggest fundraising day of the year thanks to the Virgin Money London Marathon, the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event which raised £66.4 million for charities in 2019.
In response, the UK’s mass participation sports event industry has come together to create The 2.6 Challenge, a nationwide fundraising campaign to Save the UK’s Charities. They are inviting the public to dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 and fundraise or donate to charities like us. It would be wonderful to have your support.
How can you help?

  1. Dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26. That could be 2.6miles, 2.6K, 26 press-ups, 26 pancake flips, anything with a 2 and a 6. It really is up to you! Tell all of your social media friends you are taking part in the 2.6 challenge by downloading this free GIF and posting it on all your social media channels
  2. Head to our page to donate £26 or whatever you can afford or set up a fundraising page
  3. Ask all your family and friends to sponsor you and ask them to do their own 2.6 challenge
  4. Complete your challenge
  5. Share your photo or video of your challenge on social media with #twopointsixchallenge

Please find more information about The 2.6 Challenge by visiting
Thank you for continuing to support us, every penny raised will really make a difference to the lives of people living with multiple sclerosis.
Best wishes


Jill Purcell, MS-UK Fundraising Manager

‘I vowed to never do it again!’

Posted on: April 17 2020

Samina.jpgHaving run the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2015 Samira Sharrif vowed to never to do it again, but here she is again and she explains why

In December 2019 I read an article on our work intranet looking for volunteers to enter a ballot for the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon. This article seemed to be talking to me directly - it was playing on mind for days - so, I entered the ballot.

Later in December 2019 my husband and two children watched the film ‘Britany Runs a Marathon’. The movie was all about a woman who had no real purpose in life, but with sheer determination wanted to succeed in achieving something big!

I do have a purpose in life - but the connection I had with the film was the ‘sheer determination’ in doing something to make a big difference. So, as we celebrated the New Year I said to myself, “This is the year I exceed my own expectations and run the Virgin Money London Marathon”.

The work ballot was drawn, and I didn’t get a place…
I was very downhearted, which made me feel even more determined and that feeling of “I’m not going to give up just yet” was here to stay.
In the past, I have run for charities such as Cancer Research, Breast Cancer, Children with Disabilities and Protecting Children from Cruelty. All of these charities are about supporting people just like you and me - so my motto “make a difference” applies to all.

So, I thought of which charity I’d like to contact to make a real difference and multiple sclerosis (MS) was one I had been thinking about for a while for a few reasons. One of the reasons was the struggle an ex-manager had with his wife living with MS and imagining how life was for him and his daughter. The second was because of a relative whose brother lived with MS but unfortunately passed away.

I feel we take life for granted sometimes and whilst we are all here living and breathing we should all help raise awareness and support charities to find cures - you never know if you will need to rely on these charities for help yourself or for a loved one one day.

So, on Friday 17 January 2020, I rang MS-UK and asked if there was a place in the Virgin Money London Marathon and to my astonishment, Lucy from the MS-UK fundraising team said “Yes”! I felt very emotional and excited both at the same time. I had a great feeling about this!

On Saturday 18 January, regardless of whether I was accepted, I ran 5.5 miles at 7am. The feel-good factor kicked in and I had a gut feeling I was going to achieve my first goal of 2020.
On Monday 20 January Lucy called me and gave me the best news for 2020, I had been accepted to run the Virgin Money London Marathon in aid of MS-UK. I was absolutely delighted and accepted there and then!

Being a late entry, the challenge was on…
I set up my JustGiving page and reached out to all my contacts to donate on 21 January. My friend called me and said she really wanted to help me achieve my target and offered to host a luncheon for some of the ladies in the community, with a raffle and possible auction - we agreed a date in February.

I built my training plan and factored in two light runs on weekdays, with a longer run at the weekend. On track and on target! Off I went and ordered props to promote awareness and personalise the event to generate more excitement and enthusiasm.

By Wednesday 04 February I had reached my halfway mark of £1000, I was feeling good! The Hungry for Haleem Luncheon was scheduled for Friday 07 February. We raised a total of £586.50 with £10 entry, raffle and auction. Following this event, over the weekend a flurry of donations came through and I reached over £2,000. That’s three weeks into my challenge! However, I was determined to reach greater heights, so I organised a work raffle and raise £154. 

Overwhelmingly my sister has also been raising funds for me a guess the number of sweets in a jar challenge at her workplace and raised another £102 added to my fundraising total to support MS-UK. 

If you have been inspired by Samira’s story, please donate to her JustGiving page by clicking here.

Two friends venture on an football charity challenge in support of people affected by multiple sclerosis

Posted on: April 06 2020

Hugh Van de L'isle1.jpgMy wife’s grandmother, Marina Lamnisos lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for many years before she sadly passed away in 2019. After the funeral, I decided that I wanted to raise money to help others affected by the condition and ensure they get the care they need. 


I set my sights on a charity walk, but one with a difference. I recruited some friends who are all Reading FC fans and it was then that we decided, back in August 2019, that we would walk from the fulltime whistle of one match to the kick-off of a game the following Tuesday. We picked Reading’s home game against Stoke on the 14 March and their away game against Derby on the 17 March.


The walk from Reading to Derby would be roughly 120 miles in total. Initially, there were three of us who were going to complete the walk. However, one of our trios showed symptoms of illness and decided it was best not to partake. Furthermore given the current climate, unfortunately, both of the football games were cancelled. While this did dampen our spirits slightly going into the Saturday, we powered on as myself and my walking partner, Craig knew we were both raising money for good reasons.


We stayed overnight in hotels in Wallingford, Banbury and Nuneaton to complete the walk. On the first day, we walked the Thames path with the last three miles completed at dusk. Parts of the path had slightly flooded given the recent weather, which meant we got to the hotel a bit damp after six hours of walking.


The following days we left our hotels at 08:30am and arrived at the following location after dark. On route, we traipsed through some of the stunning English countryside particularly between Oxford and Banbury.


Hugh Van de L'isle2.jpgWhen we arrived after day three at our hotel and an advert came on for CR-UK (the charity that Craig was raising money for)* and it really hit home to us exactly why we were raising money and motivated us to complete the last leg of the journey. One particular highlight for us was on day four we stopped in a pub in Hinckley for breakfast where we were treated very kindly. The staff gave Craig an ice bucket for his feet as they could see he was struggling and a man came over to chat to us and decided after listening to our story to donate to our charities. We were extremely grateful for this act of kindness. We arrived in Derby at roughly 5pm on Tuesday 17 March, it was a shame that there was no football to watch but we were relieved to have completed the Challenge for a worthy cause!


At the time of writing, we have raised an incredible £1,506 with gift aid for our causes. We hope this money can make a real difference. Our charity page is still open until June for donations so if you’d like to donate or hear more about why we did this walk please click the link below

If you've been inspired by Hugh's story and would like to create your own challenge to raise money for MS-UK, contact Lucy who will be happy to support you every step of the way. Email today! 

Just keep swimming…

Posted on: March 09 2020

I’m still going!

This weekd9473de2-6eeb-4ecd-b54a-f84b1cc97d70_0.jpg will be my 18th swim which means I will have swum a third of my target, whoo hoo! That will be 1,080 lengths which is 27km. Lucy in our fundraising team has just informed me that is almost 17 miles.

I swim every week at Clacton Leisure Centre and the distance from the pool to our office in Colchester is just under 15 miles. I am amazed that I have swum further than that. It puts it into perspective for me that’s for sure.

I looked up distances for even more perspective and it appears that The Strait of Dover, which is the narrowest part of the English Channel, is 33.3km / 20.7 miles. Looks as though I am almost there then!

I must admit the last few weeks have been really difficult to stay motivated. I thought the winter months would be hard but wow it’s actually become a chore to get out of the house and go. I’ve had a knee problem that made swimming quite uncomfortable. I mostly swim breaststroke so I found it was aggravating it. Last week I tried to swim more front crawl which I do not find easy at all but my knee is much improved now anyway.

So far I have raised £325 which is great. I didn’t set a target as my swim is more of a personal challenge for me, than a fundraiser. I am delighted I have raised that much though and hope I can raise a bit more too as I still have several more lengths to go.

I’ll keep you posted.


If you would like to donate to Laura's fundrasing challenge then you can do so here