As part of Remember A Charity Week 2017 our intern Stephanie has been exploring the impact that legacy giving can have on charities within our local community. As part of her work she had the opportunity to speak to Samantha Harper at the Berkshire Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre to find out more about the condition, the work of the Centre and the impact legacy giving has had.
What is Multiple Sclerosis and the history of the Berkshire Centre
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system and is caused when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. Most people are diagnosed before the age of 40. It is very unpredictable and most people have a type called relapsing remitting MS where they go through periods of the condition being relatively steady and times when symptoms flare up. For others, it is a progressive condition. Everyone is different and there are over 50 symptoms including problems with mobility and balance, extreme fatigue, pain and numbness in hands and feet as well as having cognitive effects. There is no cure but with the right support there are ways to manage those symptoms.
The charity started in late 1970’s. What people with MS found was that there was little support for them so they created their own support group. Starting in a room in a hospital it soon grew too popular so we needed to upgrade and we moved into a portacabin in Caversham. Soon we needed more space and in the 1990’s it was decided we needed our own building. After a successful campaign with the help of the local community, we built the Centre and here we still are today.
The difference the centre makes
What we don’t do here is tell people what treatment they need. It’s up to them they decide on their needs and their goals. We have physiotherapy to keep people moving and active. If you have MS you can’t just go to the gym: symptoms means exercise needs to be tailored by a specialist. Our specialist team only works with people with MS and knows what works and what doesn’t. It’s about symptom management and putting people in the best place to live with their MS, physically and mentally.
We give people the opportunity to access treatment and therapies that can help them live their life to the full
The Centre has the only oxygen treatment chamber of its kind in Berkshire. Oxygen has been used for years as a way of speeding up healing. Our members tell us it helps with their fatigue, helps them walk, helps them sleep better and helps them think clearer. Some members have said they’re able to stay in work because of oxygen therapy. People adapt their timetables around attending their oxygen sessions: if we were not here, these benefits would be unavailable.
The impact of legacy giving
The bigger charities can predict legacy funding but a charity of our size can’t so we don’t budget for it. Any money that comes from a gift in a will goes to long term projects to enhance members experience here. This means we can offer a better service without taking money away from treatments.
A few years ago, thanks to a legacy, we refurbished the Centre: it had got a bit tired after 16 years and we wanted it to reflect the warm welcoming place that it is. Another example is the creation of our garden, it went from a pile of mud into a beautiful oasis, a thing members can enjoy for years.
We have been very fortunate that people have remembered us, It’s the ultimate thank you and it’s so touching that people are willing to think of us in that way
We have a sun dial here in the garden as a tribute to those legacy givers. Every gift, no matter the size, allows us to be here in the unpredictable world of MS. We intend to be here for as long as our members need us. Every year it costs £400,000 to run the Centre. Last year we provided more treatments than ever before benefiting 444 people. It’s donations and fundraising that keeps us going: without them our members will not get the support they need.
Why remember MS centre in your will
I would ask everyone to leave a legacy for a charity: it really has the power to transform a small charity. For the Centre you have the chance to change the world. The members here have no other support like this. If you leave money you are really giving a life line and your legacy will live on for a long, long time. You will be making a difference and making your mark on the world.