By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
I played football on Thursday afternoon for the first time in around a year. We played 3 games…and lost them all. In addition, I stubbed my toe which was massive and bruised when I woke up. I also seem to have tweaked some muscles in my groin. All of which meant that I was feeling pretty sorry for myself when I hobbled through the rain to attend the MS Society Awards lunch on Friday. By the time I left a little over 4 hours later not only had I realised the need to stop being quite so self-centred but I had learned a huge amount about people’s ability to be positive, see past adversity and support others.
Every year at REaD Group we choose a charity to support. This year we are helping out and raising funds for MS Society after it was nominated by one of our staff who has a friend who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. We have done some fundraising events already including a waxing evening (for some of our hairier gents) and are walking 10 peaks in the Lake District in 10 hours on the 1st of June. I was also invited to judge the employer of the year award which was one of 15 given out at the awards.
Even before the awards, at the drinks beforehand and over lunch, the stories of how people live with MS and the support of those who help them out day to day was incredible. As part of the judging we had already read a lot about the things that people in companies do to help their colleagues who have to live each day with MS, but to meet these people in the flesh and see the bond between them was amazing. It was clear that for all of them, this wasn’t about helping staff but about a lasting friendship.
This might sound odd but one of the things I noticed, from my point of view as an outsider, was how often it was hard to distinguish who had MS and who didn’t. At my table at lunch were three sets of people from companies and in each case one was an MS sufferer and the other wasn’t. And in each case, until they stood up and needed support or assistance, it would have been impossible to say who had MS. This clearly shows how unpredictable a disease it is, and how it can literally affect anyone at any time.
Scott Mills from Radio 1, whose mum has MS, presented the awards and described it as “an emotional rollercoaster” and boy was he spot on. The awards were a mixture of individuals and groups who support MS sufferers and people with MS who are an inspiration for others. The first group includes partners and employers who go above and beyond, those who are researching to help find a cure and people in the media who are raising the profile of the disease and its consequences.
However, the most lump in throat moments for me here were from the young people who either care for their parents with MS – including a 9 year old girl and two 16 year old girls who have to balance exams, being 16 and looking after their parent – or those raising funds. This latter group included a 10 year old girl who organised a bake sale on her own and an 11 year old boy who swam nearly 1,500 lengths of his swimming pool.
And then there are those who not only live every day with MS but also take the time to raise funds, such as Noel Wilson who is aiming to drive his mobility scooter around every racing circuit in the UK, or who campaign or support through sharing their experiences. Such as Hannah Smith who was diagnosed with relapsing MS at 24 and has set up a blog called An Ordinary Girl with MS where she writes openly about her experiences. The ability of people to lift themselves above a debilitating illness, and not just live every day but inspire others is fantastic.
It feels like a drop in the ocean but I’m really proud that REaD Group are supporting the MS Society this year. I hope you all feel the same and support us in whatever way you can.