Ben’s story: young fundraiser and MS award nominee
17-year-old Ben Allister organised a 90 mile cycle challenge to raise money for the MS Society. He tells us how he raised more than £19,000 in three months to help people affected by MS.
Following my mum’s diagnosis with MS when I was 14, I noticed the support and reassurance that she was getting from Fermanagh MS Society. It seemed to give her an outlet in which to learn more about her condition and do something to help the situation of fellow sufferers.
As with all charities, funding is an important element in the support available and the day to day running of the Society, so I decided that a good way of giving something back was to do some fundraising.
Organising a cycle challenge
In my view, a fundraising event should be challenging but also doable, allowing a wide range of people of varying abilities to participate.
Around the area I live cycling has become an extremely popular pastime, and I thought a sponsored cycle would be a good event to attract interest.
The major challenge for me was the organising of the event - working out the route, liaising with the Parades Commission and the Police Service of Northern Ireland in all towns, marshalling, getting indemnity forms for all taking part in any way, and arranging refreshments stops for cyclists as it was a 90 mile cycle.
Raising awareness of MS
To supplement the cycle challenge, I also helped organise other events such as bag packing, school non-uniform days and fireside quizzes.
The school non-uniform day was particularly beneficial, as it raised money and also brought MS and the MS Society to the attention of a lot of school kids and their parents. It was a bit surprising to find how relatively little some people knew about the condition.
The town was buzzing
Looking back, the thing that gave me most pride was the morning of the event, when the town was buzzing with 18 motorbikes marshalling the event and 34 cyclists.
When they all took off I felt as if I had just arranged the Tour de France. It was such an amazing feeling.
I was also surprised by the enthusiasm and support of the people who helped with all of the events, as well as the cyclists, who not only raised a lot of money but also completed the cycle (and were still in good enough shape to go out that night and have a party).
I must also praise the back up teams who accompanied the cyclists and provided marshalling, feeding stations, return transport, massages and encouragement. They really added significantly to the event.
Plans for 2013
Next year’s event is taking place in March 2013 - over the summer, with the help of my family and friends, I have so far raised £3,500 in anticipation.
Ben won Young Person of the Year at the MS Society Awards 2012.