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Getting ready to ride to the Alps

15th September 2014 by laura.percival

Paul Markham and Barry Jordan

Paul Markham and two friends will be cycling from London to Courchevel this month to raise funds for the MS Trust. Paul tells us here why he has chosen to take on this challenge.

I work in the ski industry for a company called Supertravel and spend some of each winter in the Alps. I’ve been talking about riding my bike from London to Courchevel in the French Alps for charity for about four years now, but each year things didn’t quite work out. It’s the company’s 50th birthday this winter so it kind of made sense for us to aim for this year.

I’ve managed to talk two others, Fred Wakefield and Barry Jordan, into the ride and we have two support drivers, Clive and Christine Chappe. We are going to ride the 650 miles in nine days ending in an HC (super category) climb to Courchevel 1850 which they have used in the Tour de France – basically a steep mountain that lasts 15 miles!

We were looking for a charity to support that meant something to us, something that we knew would help. I remember my dad telling me that he had bumped into a school friend of mine and that he was shocked to find out that she had MS. We connected through facebook a while later and I have kept up with her blog over recent years. It was difficult taking in how the condition had affected the girl who used to live on my street, the girl who used to run around my parents’ garden.

I think it’s made us realise that the challenge we will have riding the nine days is small compared to the challenges that people with MS face each day. So at the moment whilst we are dealing with sore legs and a sore bum, that’s our motivation to keep going. We’ve been doing rides of up to 85 miles, including a couple of rides in the Alps. Putting in nine days of that kind of distance is going to be the hard part, but what would be the fun if it was easy?!

Visit Paul’s fundraising page

Photo L to R: Paul Markham and Barry Jordan

Selling my artwork to raise funds and awareness of MS

9th September 2014 by laura.percival

Jill Heaps with artwork

Artist Jill Heaps tells us how she has adapted the way she works since being diagnosed with MS, and why she has decided to sell her own artworks to help raise funds for the MS Trust.

I started scribbling from an early age, very often on things I shouldn’t have, much to my mother’s dismay. I was good at crafty subjects at school and the first memory I have of drawing was in primary school when I got a gold star for a series of drawings of birds in flight. Although I did art at senior school it remained a hobby – I would draw celebrities that I liked. After starting work I enrolled at night school and got my O-level in Art – otherwise I am self taught.

Time went by and I continued to draw and paint various subjects while working, first as a clerical assistant then in an IT section. I had always had a love of animals and the countryside and wanted to capture these subjects in my artwork – I had seen wonderful work by artists like David Shepherd. I experimented with various techniques and studied books and video tapes, even talked to several professional artists, some of whom became good friends, and eventually I got it right. This led to having entries accepted for PAWS (Paint a Wildlife Subject), National Exhibition of Wildlife Art and also commissions for Pet Portraits.

I was very happy doing this but after a while I found I couldn’t concentrate as much and I was having trouble holding the pencils while I did the fine detail that made up the fur or feathers. Overall I was getting tired very easily but put it down to a stressful job. Then one day I felt a bit tingly down my left arm and numb on my side which got worse. I couldn’t walk straight and felt very strange.

I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in June 2008. It has affected the hand/arm I use most and my concentration amongst many other things including walking and balance. Some days I feel so tired I can hardly eat. I did not know what to expect at the time of diagnosis. I had heard of MS briefly and could only see wheelchairs and paralysis in the future – I was scared, very scared. The MS Trust website came to the rescue. It had lots of answers, contacts and links to a forum that I joined where I talked to others, many in a worse state than me, who helped and supported me and still do today. I don’t know how my husband and myself would have got through without it. My MS has recently got worse and now I have spasms in my legs, but I’m getting through with the help of a specialist MS Nurse and Physiotherapist who would not be there if it wasn’t for organisations like the MS Trust.

This is why I now try to help raise funds and awareness of MS and the MS Trust. They are needed every day to help support people like me. I have entered pictures into the Secret Art Show for the last four years and I have now launched a Facebook page to show the world my other work – old and new, before and after diagnosis – and to help raise funds and awareness about this secretive disease.

Although I cannot do the detail in my artwork in the same way, it has opened a new door showing me how I can work in other looser ways with paint and brushes instead of pencils, and it is refreshing. I also paint gardens and views. Last year I moved from an urban environment to the countryside, so now I have no shortage of subjects. Now the question is what to paint first.

My page is updated every now and then with news and new pictures. Please take a look, I hope you like it. I am also hoping to have an exhibition of my work sometime to help raise awareness of MS. I will continue to enter the MS Trust’s Secret Art Show each year and help support the good work that they do. Maybe one day there will be a cure.

Many of Jill’s artworks are available to buy in aid of the MS Trust: visit Jill’s Facebook page to view and buy her work

Bandit Robin Marigold Geraniums

A ski trip with a difference: Sarah’s Monster Ski experience

28th August 2014 by laura.percival

Sarah Burgess

As we look forward to the next Monster Ski in March 2015, Sarah Burgess who took part in this year’s ski challenge in Chamonix tells us what it was like to be part of this unique fundraising event.

As soon as I heard about Monster Ski I knew I wanted to take part! I am an avid skier, and the challenge of skiing the equivalent vertical descent of Mount Everest for three days in a row sounded just awesome! A little daunting, perhaps, but surely the chance of a lifetime. The MS Trust is a charity close to my heart – my husband was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS about six years ago – so I didn’t hesitate to sign up!

The first challenge

The first part of the challenge was the fundraising, although it was actually a lot easier than I expected. I found it helped to break it down into smaller chunks, that way it didn’t seem so daunting. I did all the obvious things first – set up my fundraising page with Virgin Money Giving (which was actually really simple), then set about emailing all my friends, family and colleagues, linking in with my Facebook account, and generally badgering people!

Then I planned a series of fundraising events. We held a party on bonfire night, sold Christmas cards, did a collection in the local pub and made cakes. The single most successful event for me was a pub quiz – in addition to the funds raised through selling tickets, we held a raffle on the night and ended up raising over £500. Plus it was great fun! As long as you give yourself plenty of time, and plan events that you (and your friends) enjoy, it is surprisingly achievable.

Excitement kicked in

I have to admit to being a little apprehensive when I first arrived at Heathrow Airport, not knowing anyone or what to expect, but as soon as we all started arriving, swapping stories and getting to know each other, any trepidation rapidly vanished and excitement kicked in!

We were very well looked after the entire time. On arrival in Geneva we were met and quickly transferred to our hotel in Chamonix, which couldn’t have been better placed, right in the centre of town. I found myself sharing a room with another solo female participant, and we were both ecstatic to walk out onto our balcony and see the most amazing view of Mont Blanc!

The group comprised a complete mixture of people, some travelling together, some alone, many with personal links to MS (including one amazing guy who has MS himself and completed the entire challenge – probably skiing quicker than anyone else in the group). Despite the various different backgrounds, the group gelled incredibly well and many new friendships were made.

We skied from first lift to last

The three days of skiing were full-on and exhausting – certainly a challenge, and one which wasn’t made any easier by the slushy spring snow conditions. We split into two groups with Beatrice and Fred, our lovely ESF guides, and they monitored our progress to ensure we all covered the required vertical distance. Lunch and loo stops were speedy, and we literally skied from first to last lift each of the three days!

Other than one minor injury (a slight altercation with a snowboarder!), we all survived intact, and on the last evening were presented with our ‘awards’!

The trip was jam-packed from start to finish, with no time for Glühwein stops or sunbathing! Having said that though, the camaraderie was excellent and everyone returned home feeling accomplished and proud of our achievements. Some people added on a few days at the end, for a more leisurely experience of the Chamonix slopes – certainly a good idea if time permits, particularly if it is your only ski trip of the season.

I would certainly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a ski trip with a difference – pushing yourself to the limit on the slopes, whilst at the same time raising money for a great cause – what could be better?!

The MS Trust is now taking bookings for the next Monster Ski event, which will take place back in Chamonix from 13-17 March 2015. You can register before 8 September at the earlybird rate of just £99, then after that for £150. Find out more about Monster Ski and book your place

Monster Ski group

Monster Ski 2014 group

Ben’s Five in Five fundraiser

26th August 2014 by laura.percival

Ben Naughton

On 30 August, Ben Naughton (pictured right) will be taking on his first of five events to raise money for the MS Trust. Starting with the Rubicon Half Iron Man, Ben will complete five events in just five weeks! He is also taking on the Coniston Chill Swim (5.25 miles), Marathon Row at Cross Fit HG3, London to Paris cycle ride and finishing with the Berlin Marathon on 28 September. Here Ben tells us why he is taking on these incredible challenges.

I’m fundraising for my close friend James Al-Mudallal and to raise awareness about the condition he has suddenly developed.

James was diagnosed, out of the blue, with multiple sclerosis in 2013 at the age of just 23. He was working as a journalist for Trinity Mirror group in Cardiff, writing for Western Mail, South Wales Echo and Wales on Sunday. Since the diagnosis his life has dramatically changed, being back at the family home in London, surrounded by his close friends and family who are providing him with the support that he needs on a daily basis.

I met James whilst at Newcastle University and with his infectious character, he usually leaves a lasting impression on anyone he encounters. We lived together for four years, became gym partners, played football together and cooked a few odd dodgy meals, so it’s fair to say that he has and will continue to be a huge part of my life. James is one of life’s good ones, genuinely one of the kindest and most down to earth people you could ever want to meet. This is all in aid of him and others who are living with multiple sclerosis.

These five challenges represent a short journey for me, but just the beginning for James on his road to recovery.

Find out more about Ben’s events on his Five in Five blog

Sponsor Ben on Justgiving

Get involved!

7th August 2014 by Nicola Pates

There are loads of ways you can get involved and support our work helping everyone affected by MS. Here are just a few ideas. 

Two Santa Runners

DIFC Santa Run

Run, jog, walk or use your wheelchair or scooter around London’s Victoria Park on 7 December! This is a great accessible event for all the family and there’s a free Santa suit for every entrant!
Find out more about the DIFC Santa Run

Monster Ski, Chamonix

Ski or snowboard the height of Mount Everest every day in our Monster Ski challenge, taking place from 13–17 March 2015. There’s an early
bird discount until 8 September!
Find out more about Monster Ski 

London Marathon

If you are looking for a place or if you have a place and would like to run for the MS Trust on 26 April 2015, please get in touch.
Find out more about the London Marathon

Three chances to join our cycle team!

Two cyclists from the MS Trust 3 Cities bike ride

London to Paris Cycle Ride

Take part in this classic cycle challenge from 20 to 24 May 2015 in aid of the MS Trust (other dates available).
Find out more about the London to Paris Cycle Ride

3 Cities Cycle Ride

Cycle from London to Brussels via Amsterdam from 27 to 31 May 2015 (other dates available).
Find out more about the 3 Cities Cycle Ride

Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100

Cycle 100 miles on closed roads from London to Surrey in August 2015 (date tbc).
Find out more about the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100

To find out more about supporting the work of the MS Trust call 01462 476707 or visit our fundraising pages.
This article is from our free quarterly newsletter, Open Door. Sign up to receive your copy by post or email, or read the latest edition in full.

Thank you to the Free Wheelers!

23rd June 2014 by Stephen

Kenny Smith with Robin ReliantCongratulations to MS Trust fundraising superstar Kenny Smith! Over the last 12 years, through countless marathons, treks and bike rides, Kenny has raised over £30,000 for the MS Trust. Five years ago he dreamed up the annual MS Circuit Challenge at Goodwood, which this year is on course to raise over £15,000. And last weekend he and a crew of dedicated friends pedalled over 23 miles in a Robin Reliant and raised another £1000! Below Kenny tells about the day.

On 21 June 2014 12 friends pedalled our modified Only Fools & Horses three-wheel van from The Prince Of Wales Pub in Woodgate to the centre of Chichester then onto the Pier at Bognor, and while doing so raising much needed funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Trust!

The three-wheel van has been stripped of its engine, all working parts and chassis. It has been totally rebuilt as a pedal car by our friends at D & R Structures.

After bacon rolls and coffee we left the Prince of Wales pub at Woodgate at 9:00am and got to the cross at Chichester at 11:30am.

Then we headed for Bognor and reached the Bognor Pier at around 2:30pm

We then pedalled along the seafront and through the town and got back to the Prince at 5.00 for a well earned round of drinks!

It was 23 miles in total. We didn’t have any problems with traffic as we pulled over quite often and we had our own marshals on traffic duty and we had back up vehicles at the front and rear. We all took it in turns to pedal and steer and to collect money on route while dressed up in fancy dress.  We had a lot of interest from the public who were all amazed that our van  was in fact a pedal car, and was human powered!!

In Chichester we raised £190.51 and in Bognor we raised £130.66. Some of the team managed to raise sponsorship for the challenge bringing the total for the day to £1106.17.  That evening we also had an Auction and raised an amazing £815! Plans are already underway for our next Free Wheelers Challenge!


John’s Jump in June Experience

20th June 2014 by Shan Teo

John Ferguson wearing his parachute, getting ready for his jump
John Ferguson from Liverpool took part in a skydive on the 14th June as part of our Jump in June month. Here he shares his thoughts on the experience.

“It was amazing, a really almost indescribable feeling. The day was perfect with glorious sunshine and my jump partner was a real funny guy who made me so relaxed. I had my family there with me and we had a great day. I thoroughly loved it and would recommend to all!

Most importantly I was able to get great support from family, friends and work colleagues, both mental and in terms of money. Final count not in yet and clearly the collecting is underway – but I think I hit the £1k total last weekend.

Having been diagnosed myself just under 3 years ago I have been very fortunate enough not to need tons of help. But knowing that the MS Trust is there for me, and the information I’ve had from them gives me great comfort. So well done the Trust and a thank you from me. It was a privilege getting to do this for such a brill cause.”

If you would like to experience the thrill of a tandem parachute jump yourself it’s not too late! You can take part in an exciting skydive throughout the year. Visit our skydiving pages to find out more.

Reflections on the Great North Run

12th June 2014 by laura.percival

Andy Porter from Chester (pictured right with his daughter Hannah, son Josh and dog Bryn) has run the Great North Run five times in aid of the MS Trust, raising more than £5,700 to help people with MS. As he prepares to run from Newcastle to South Shields again on 7 September, he reflects back on his fond memories of the world’s greatest half marathon.

Andy Porter and family

It’s September 2007. Early autumn sunshine filters through the trees on Newcastle’s Town Moor. Fifty-odd thousand excited, slightly nervous joggers, proper runners, chickens, ballet dancers, wheelchair users, Borats and pantomime horses surround you on the start line of the biggest mass participation run in the UK.

What on earth am I doing here?

A 46 year old who had barely run since my mid twenties I had signed up because it felt like a good thing to do. A way I could at least help raise a little awareness and money for the MS Trust, a charity I’d only got to know as a result of my wife, Kathy’s diagnosis with MS four years previously. I still played a bit of 5-a-side, I walked the dog most days, surely a half marathon can’t be too bad, can it?

In what seems like no time Dire Straits’ Local Hero is blaring out from the PA, Sir Bobby Robson is gamely attempting to shake hands with every single one of us and I am alongside one of my best mates on a conveyor belt of smiling, jogging, walking, waving humanity, wearing every colour under the sun. All with a story, all cheerfully determined to do the best they possibly can.

People waving and smiling. On bridges, by the roadside, one gigantic Geordie family and they all seem to be rooting for you – every note is positive, every voice encouraging. Exhilarating and unforgettable.

The deceptively easy run down to the Tyne Bridge, then across – Red Arrows overhead gleaming out of the blue, the roar as they fly over. This is incredible, better than I’d ever imagined. Looking out for Kathy and the kids at the pre-agreed spot – a little hand-rail at the bottom of some steps, just before the road turns left through Gateshead. There they are – a wave, a smile, a photograph. And then uphill, this is real. Moon River on my mental playlist… “wider than a mile, I’m crossing you in style, some day”. My Mum’s favourite song, and my Dad’s. He was a runner in his youth, I can hear his voice, feel him with me “Come on Andrew, you can do it”.

Get into a rhythm, stay with it – remember the training, you have prepared for this. The 11 mile run to my brother’s house on a hot day the week before, uphill finish without any water – you can do this.

3 miles. Water.

More smiles, pick up a bottle – a few slurps. Keep focused, keep the rhythm. Remember my friend Brian’s advice from the night before “Enjoy it. Engage with the crowd – they will pull you through”. Wish I’d had the pasta instead of a Calzone pizza, maybe that second beer wasn’t a great idea…

The bands. Another mile, another band – driving you on; you applaud them because they are great and it lifts you.

The guy up on top of his shed with his garden hose spraying down the runners in Hebburn to keep them cool. The strictly unofficial Elvis impersonator belting out Suspicious Minds. The kids handing out lollies or jelly babies. The smiles, the waves.

Everyone looking out for each other, everyone doing it for a reason.

11 miles.

Andy Porter running

South Shields. You can smell the sea. A reggae band in the roundabout, more and more people cheering and waving. High fives. A steady incline and the runners quieten, focus on the job in hand, keep working, keep the rhythm.

When you think the finish may never come, the road drops and the North Sea is in front of you. 1 mile to go. One flat, wonderful mile. Then 800m, 600, 400… you find yourself breaking into a sprint, this is it. Leave nothing behind, give it everything you’ve got. Oh, and don’t forget the official photographers at the finish – in year one I contrived to look like a breathless, perspiring bulldog chewing a wasp – with a little awareness this can be avoided.

Then as suddenly as it started it’s over. You’re on another human conveyor belt, leave the ankle strap timer, collect the bag, change your shirt and hang the medal around your neck. A mug of hot sweet tea at the MS Trust tent in the Charity Village, a Mars Bar, banana, more smiles, more Red Arrows. Pure euphoria and a sense of real achievement.

And ever since I’ve had to come back, recapture that feeling, do it again and again. All being well this year will be my sixth Great North Run, our son Josh’s third and daughter Hannah’s second. And my long suffering friends in Gosforth will once again be putting us up and feeding us porridge, driving us to the Town Moor and keeping Kathy company while we all assemble to do it one more time.

It is the most positive experience imaginable, so worthwhile in every way. I’ve never done any other mass participation events so I have nothing to compare it to. But there is something about the heady mix of north eastern hospitality and warmth, flawless organization and that fantastic finale by the sea that make the Great North Run very special indeed. If you are thinking about it, do it. You’ll love it.

Sadly I have no advice to offer on training programmes and fitness regimes as frankly I’ve never really stuck to one. My idea of a “warm down” is a pint of Guinness in Durham City on the way home and fish & chips at the Coast 2 Coast chippie in Kirkby Stephen. Buy good shoes, put an eclectic mix on your iPod (I’ll never forget smiling up a really tough hill 5 miles into a training run to God Give me Strength by Elvis Costello) and get a running app for your mobile. If you have a dog, start to run with him (or her) – that’s how all this began for me. And savour every second of the day.

Finally, always remember why you are doing it – to help the MS Trust continue to fund valuable research and offer hope, support, information and advice for people like my amazing wife, Josh and Hannah’s amazing mum, Kathy.

The MS Trust still has a limited number of places available for this year’s Great North Run – find out how to book your place.

Fundraiser attempts London to Paris triathlon world record

22nd May 2014 by laura.percival

Jo Rodda from London is getting ready to take on a 289 mile continuous triathlon which starts at Marble Arch in London, crosses the Channel and finishes at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. If that isn’t enough, she hopes to become the fastest women ever to complete it, beating the current record of 97hrs 37mins! Here she tells us more about her Arch to Arc challenge.

Jo Rodda

With the help of a support crew, I will be attempting to break the women’s world record for the solo Enduroman Arch to Arc challenge this August. What does this mean? Well, it means I’m having a stab at doing an 87 mile run from Marble Arch to Dover, a 22 mile swim across the Channel and a 180 mile cycle from Calais to Paris.

Am I mad? Probably. But I’m doing it to raise money for the MS Trust after my friend Simon was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly after the birth of his second son, Billy. I have a background in very long distance running and long distance triathlon, and it was hard to find an event that seemed like a big enough challenge to reflect even a fraction of the challenge faced by Simon.

Early on, I decided that I wanted to do something to raise money for MS Trust by completing some kind of endurance challenge. MS Trust is a charity that helped to support Simon and his family right from the start of his illness and so it seemed like a logical choice. Simon is very much involved with this challenge (along with our friends), helping with the fundraising and IT side of things while I am training my socks, swim hat and padded cycling shorts off.

The crew are all preparing for their roles and the reality of what we’ve taken on is really beginning to hit home. I am training up to 9 hours every day with their support and we’re on track for our goal.

Keep up to date with how Jo is getting on with her training and find more information about the challenge on her website. If you would like to sponsor her, you can do so via her Justgiving page. You can also follow Jo’s progress on her Facebook or Twitter.

Jo with her friend Simon and his two children, Billy and Jack

Jo with her friend Simon and his two children, Billy and Jack

My zip slide from the Tyne Bridge

12th May 2014 by laura.percival

MS Trust Fundraising Officer Donna Barton accompanied a group of daring supporters taking part in a sponsored zip slide over the River Tyne on Saturday. Despite her fear of heights, Donna conquered the challenge and she tells us all about it below.

Donna Barton

It’s not natural to stand on the Tyne Bridge with the busy traffic coming back and forth. Nor is it natural to climb up on a wobbly step ladder to lift your legs over and sit on the edge. Even more so, it’s far from natural to then release your fingers (which are now white from holding the rail so tight) and fall through the air attached to a wire! However, this is exactly what I and 34 other MS Trust supporters did on Saturday 10th May.

I am a fundraiser at the MS Trust and I love my job. I am blown away daily by the dedication of our supporters who fundraise for us, raising thousands and thousands of pounds so we can continue to support people with MS. I have helped hundreds of our supporters from the comfort of my desk and many of them have been doing hardcore challenges and large scale events which leave me in awe.

This was why I signed up for the zip slide – I don’t do heights and I don’t like any kind of roller coaster ride so to combine the two is a challenge for me. I paid my registration fee back in December and that was me booked!

As I sat on the bridge, the fear hit me and I started to tell the staff I couldn’t do it and that I needed to get down! Then I got a gentle nudge and before I knew it I was off and I was filled with emotion. Yes there was plenty of high pitched screaming, with some words I shall not repeat, but my head was full of thoughts about why we were doing this. As I was flying through the air (oh yes, I now think I’m Superwoman) I was full of pride for everyone taking part.

To date we have raised nearly £7,000 from this zip slide event and I know there is more money to come in. We are now hoping that this event will raise £10,000, which means so much to us at the MS Trust.

I would urge anyone who is even considering this to DO IT! You can sign up now for our October Tyne Bridge Zip slide and I will see you there!

View more photos from the day on Flickr

Donna's zip slide