As I was whoring myself out for sponsorship money in a team meeting today, several of my colleagues asked me if I had a JustGiving site they could go to. As it happens, I do... so I promised them that I would send them an email with all of the details.
Of course, as I sat down to fire that email out, it occurred to me that I haven't really actively hawked for sponsorship all that much. Sure, I've talked about it here and I've had a link on the little signature file I have on the bottom of all of my emails (name, job title, phone numbers, please sponsor me here, etc.....), but I haven't really gone out and asked my colleagues if they will sponsor me. A few have been kind enough to donate on the basis of the fact that they knew I was training for the race (one or two are affected by the disease personally or have a partner who is, and they've always been very supportive), and I've even had a couple of people donate on the basis of the link on the bottom of all my emails (including one potential supplier today, completely out of the blue).... but I haven't exactly sought money out. C. sent a big email out to her colleagues over the weekend, so with less than four weeks to go before the race, I thought I'd spread the net a little wider and email out across my department.
But what to write? I have a sense that I will raise more money if I personalise things and help people to understand why I've chosen this charity: it's not just that it's a cause close to my heart, but it's because I actually HAVE multiple sclerosis.... but no sooner had I thought about saying something like that, than I started to feel a bit awkward about the whole thing. I've never made a secret of my condition, and I will talk to anyone who is interested or curious enough to ask, but I haven't exactly gone around advertising the fact. Why would you? Who wants to be defined by something that they have and by other people's preconceptions of it?
Then I thought about it again.
MS is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It is a condition that strikes people down seemingly at random; there may be genetic factors, but no one can say with any certainty that there is anything I could have done differently with my life that would have stopped me getting multiple sclerosis. In addition to that, MS is a condition that is widely misunderstood and, with the best will in the world, most people are pretty ignorant about what it actually is and what it means for the people who have it. I'm not going to definitely end up in a wheelchair; MS is (probably) not going to kill me. I may look fine, but sometimes I will be so fatigued that I can barely summon the energy to move; I have pins and needles and a widespread numbness across my body, but I am physically fit enough to run a half marathon in less than two hours (I hope!).
I feel as though I have an opportunity - if not an outright responsibility - to help other people to understand what MS is and what it means to the people whose lives are touched by it. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and I won't hide it.
So I came up with this:
I know that you're being pushed pretty hard recently to raise money for Macmillan and [the company Benevolent Fund], but I do hope you haven’t got charity fatigue just yet….. I’m running the Robin Hood Half Marathon in a couple of weeks and I’m rather hoping you might feel inclined to push a few pennies in my direction.
Together with my wife and a friend, we will be running to raise money for the MS Society: Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive neurological condition that affects around 85,000 people in the UK. It's a disease with a thousand faces that affects different people in different ways. It can cause a variety of symptoms including loss of balance and mobility, extreme fatigue, depression and mood swings. There is currently no cure and few effective treatments, but with the right support and information people can continue their lives. For many people, that support and information comes directly from the MS Society.
As many of you know, I was diagnosed with MS in 2009 after suffering symptoms since 2005. I’m lucky and have been relatively unaffected so far, but it’s one of those weasel conditions that can creep up on you when you least expect it… and indeed, my younger brother was diagnosed with MS at the start of the year and has already been hospitalised twice. The MS Society has been brilliant for me… they fund vital research that will help to find a cure (this for example) but, just as importantly, they provide the front line support for MS sufferers and their families. As the government continue to make cuts to the funding of charities like this one, the Society needs as much help as possible if it is to be able to continue to offer this support going forwards. This is where you can help:
We raised over £3000 running this race in 2009, and with your help we're hoping to beat that figure this year. You can sponsor us here:
Every penny will be gratefully received and is definitely going to a great cause.
Thanks for reading! Apologies for going on (… very unlike me, I’m sure you’ll agree. I never normally labour a point…!)
I'm comfortable with that, and if it helps raise some more money for a great cause, then all to the good.