Herts-based family charity, the Muscle Help Foundation (MHF), is thrilled to announce that it has just been awarded almost £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Awards for All’ programme, which will ultimately enable the organisation to reach more families affected by Muscular Dystrophy (MD).
The award-winning charity provides transformational, highly personalised experiences called ‘Muscle Dreams’ for children and young people living with MD and Allied Neuromuscular diseases such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). MD is a progressive muscle wasting disease that can prove fatal in its most severe form.
Michael McGrath, the CEO and founder of the charity, is himself no stranger to a challenge. Having been diagnosed with the condition at the age of 18yrs, in 2004 he became the first disabled person to successfully lead expeditions to both the North and South Poles. However the really hard work is making some of his charity’s ever increasing number of ‘Muscle Dream’ nominations a reality.
“At the moment I am trying hard to work our way through a waiting list! I need to get to Lewis Hamilton about meeting one of our young beneficiaries, plus I need to reach other celebs including the likes of Samuel L Jackson, Jessie J, Dizzee Rascal and Jamie Oliver. Additionally,we have several experiential nominations including a young person who wants to attend a Superhero Movie Premiere, so if any one knows the top folks over at Marvel Comics, let me know! It’s certainly keeping us busy!” he laughs.
The Big Lottery grant will help fund the charity’s soon to be launched ‘Project 657: Reach, Empower, Inspire’ programme; they plan to use this initiative to develop new publicity materials, create links to key partners such as the hospice movement and build a greater online presence through social media and the internet. This will enable MHF to reach more families affected by Muscular Dystrophy and Allied Neuromuscular conditions, by working more closely with its growing partnership network to raise awareness of its work and the help and support available to them.
Michael continued: “As proud winners of the Hertfordshire Inspiring 2013 ‘Best Social Enterprise of the Year Award’, this project will broaden our reach amongst our growing beneficiary community and also hospices, neuromuscular care advisers, charities in the muscular dystrophy space and health professionals who support this vulnerable group.
Since 2008, the economy has gone off the fiscal cliff and financial pressures mean families can’t afford the essential developmental needs of a young person, particularly if they’re struggling to come to terms with the life-limiting and degenerative nature of their disability, often resulting in a lack of self-esteem and confidence.
Social networks are limited. Our awareness raising appeal and ‘Project 657’ toolkit will enable us to reach the aforementioned groups. Our research has shown that 65% of families with disabled children reported feeling isolated frequently or all of the time (Source: Forgotten Families), 54% said that not having the time or money to do things that other families do makes them feel isolated and 1 in 5 say that isolation has led to the break up of their family life. It also costs up to 3 times as much to raise a disabled child, as it does to raise a child without disabilities.
Winning this award will help us build our reach in attracting new beneficiaries and staying connected with both our existing and new community networks.”
The charity has only been going for ten years but has worked with Premier League football clubs, including Manchester United and Chelsea, as well as boy-band Westlife and TV personality Ray Mears, who spent a day last year teaching woodcraft to Sam, a 15-year-old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) who has a big passion for the great outdoors.
“Despite being a small family charity with extremely limited resources, we’re proud to punch above our weight in terms of our online footprint but we now desperately need more help, more support, more resources like never before!” said Michael. “This ‘Awards for All’ funding will make a huge difference to our ability to help inspire more families affected by muscular dystrophy but we’d love to hear from anyone out there who could help us either financially, or with skills and time or perhaps someone with a little black book of contacts that can help make one or more of our ‘Muscle Dream’ experiences a reality. You can’t put a price on a memory that’ll last a lifetime.
Achieving our first ever Big Lottery Fund is such fantastic news; put simply, it will give a unique small charity rooted in family values the opportunity to reach, empower and inspire more families impacted by muscular dystrophy, a muscle wasting disease that robs the affected of their mobility, their independence and finally for those with the most severe form, their lives. By default, MHF will be able to further grow its community of ‘Muscle Warriors’, underpinned by an infectious tribal ethos that gives a sense of shared identity and purpose, that has a strong spirit of togetherness and most of all provides hope! As the ‘Chief Muscle Warrior’ (CEO) and someone whose life is slowly being destroyed by the same disease that affects MHF’s same beneficiaries, words cannot describe just how delighted we are and the difference and impact we hope to make with this opportunity – watch this space!”
The MHF’s grant is just one out of a total of 102 projects in the Eastern region, sharing a total of £835,296 in the latest ‘Awards for All’ announcement.
Lyn Cole, Big Lottery Fund Deputy Director for England, said: “The fantastic thing about the ‘Awards for All’ programme is the huge range of charities and good causes that the programme helps, from people affected by serious, life altering illnesses to projects teaching children basic mechanic skills. I know the groups receiving funding today will make the most of the opportunity and I hope they inspire others to get in touch so we can help even more people across the Eastern region.”
Photo: 2014 Steve Carter/Peter David Hutchinson