This month, our fundraising star is Grace Catchpole who took to the stage with her university sketch group in aid of MS-UK to honour the memory of her mother (pictured above). Here's her story of show night and a special delivery that brought her to tears...
In September 2018 I lost my mother to multiple sclerosis (MS). She was first diagnosed over 20 years ago and throughout that time was an inspiration to many people. I know it’s a cliché, but I don’t think it is possible to fight harder or continue to find the joy in life in the way she did. She taught me to always make the most out of everything I did and to never give up, no matter what the obstacles, and to always keep a sense of humour about everything.
In light of this I knew I wanted to do something to support those with MS. Great sporting feats were out of the question for me, as merely the thought of doing a marathon or triathlon makes me feel ill, and I would be the first to admit I am not in the shape to even think about attempting one. Then the idea hit me. I’d recently been at a university society training day where they’d spoken to us about the idea of adopting a charity for the year. Although I am not in charge of my university drama society, I am running the sketch group. I spoke to my second in command, the president of the society, and finally the rest of the sketch group and was given the green light: our little medical school sketch group was adopting MS-UK as our charity for the year.
My family’s connection with MS-UK goes back many years. My dad ran the London Marathon for MSRC and MS-UK numerous times, something I have always been in awe of. So, when I decided that I wanted to raise money for an MS charity, MS-UK was the first place I looked to.
From the moment I decided to make contact I knew I’d made the right decision. I was put in touch with Lucy who phoned me and we had a long chat about what I wanted to do, and why I had chosen the charity and the cause. Knowing that I had such wonderful support from the charity helped no end throughout the organisation process, and the good luck wishes via email and the Facebook page gave me and the sketch group wonderful boosts going into our first show.
To anyone looking to fundraise for MS-UK I would recommend getting in touch with their fundraising team as soon as you can! The extra support can work wonders and it was through that initial chat with Lucy that I came up with the idea to have all of our front of house team in MS-UK t-shirts for the show, helping promote what we were raising money for!
The first chance for our group to raise money for MS-UK came with our annual sketch show in December. This is a one-night only show aimed at other students from the medical school and has been a huge success in past years, although this is the first time it has been performed for charity. The first thing that needed to be done was to look at the numbers – how much of the proceeds from the show could we afford to give to charity and still be able to fund our activity for the rest of the year? We decided to charge £1 extra for tickets which would go to MS-UK and then fit as many collection buckets into the venue as possible and rely on the generosity of medical students.
When it came to organise the event, I was at a distinct advantage. I was running a well-established event that has been running for five years, so already knew I had an audience that was willing to turn up, but the challenge was how to get them to put money in buckets. The answer came from my genius flatmate, who runs front of house for our shows. We would offer face-painting to anyone who put some money in – this tactic meant we almost doubled the money we made from ticket sales, and meant in addition we had a fabulous looking audience!
I would also like to use this space to thank the incredible alumni of our little group. On the day of the show I received an envelope, which arrived by special delivery, with strict instructions not open it until 6pm that day. At 6pm, just after doing the pre-show thankyous to my wonderful team, I opened it to discover a wonderful letter and £70 donation to MS-UK from some of our alumni, triggering unashamed tearfulness from me and an outpouring of love from the rest of the cast. After the show was over I have also been contacted by other alumni asking where they can donate money in a show of love and support I find myself overwhelmed by.
When I was first contacted by Lucy about being fundraiser of the month she spoke about the show and also about money that had been raised in my mum’s name from other areas. Both my uncle putting together a carol singing group which raised money around Oxford and the university hockey and football clubs running a student union event for MS-UK (both clubs are headed up by friends of my sister). I cannot take credit for these fundraising efforts but there is one common denominator across them all. My mother.
It was very flattering to be nominated as fundraiser of the month, however I don’t know if this recognition truly belongs to me. The way I see it all this fundraising was caused by one amazing woman who inspired not just me, but also those around her, to want to change something and want to improve the lives of others with the MS.
That this is one of the legacies she left behind is nothing more than any of us who knew her expected, you only have to look to the impressive amounts that were donated in her name when she died in September to see just how much she touched the lives of others. I am truly proud to have had her as my mother and feel blessed to have had her in my life. I like to think she would also be proud of me for showing I have inherited just a little bit of her organisational skills in putting together a charity event, although I did need a fantastic team behind me to help me pull it off, to all of whom I offer all my thanks. MS-UK is a fantastic charity supporting people affected by a truly challenging condition and I feel honoured that I was able to support this cause even though my contribution was small. I think what my story shows is that the memory, love and respect for one amazing person can make such a difference, and I will be forever grateful that my mother was one of those people.
Find out more about fundraising for MS-UK
The support of people like Grace mean we can continue our work being here for anyone affected by multiple sclerosis. Call Lucy on 01206 226500 or email Lucy today to order a free fundraising welcome pack and start your journey!