Mark holds a large check for £1,600 for his local MS society group

Volunteer Susannah picked me up when I was in a very dark place

After his diagnosis, Mark’s local MS Society group in Gwynedd and Mon helped him find himself again, leading him to discover a love of teaching sport to others with disabilities.

When I was diagnosed with MS I was no longer working, with no idea what was going on with my body. I was a mess. But Susannah from my local MS Society group picked me up and helped me turn my life around.

That’s why I volunteer now, to say thank you for how much MS Society volunteers did for me. I don’t think I would be here today if it wasn’t for Susannah and my local MS Society group.

Finding my MS Society group

I first found my local group through their Pilates class at my local leisure centre. I’d never been to the centre, and I had absolutely no idea what Pilates was. But I had just been diagnosed with MS, and I thought, if it gets me out of the house for the day, that’s good.

I got there and Susannah popped her head around the door and said, “I’m from the MS Society. If there’s any way I can help you I will.”

Volunteering for the MS Society

One thing led to another, and I started volunteering. It was coming up to Christmas and they needed someone to do a tabletop sale, so I did it. Now I do one every month and an annual cheque presentation to show how much I’ve raised. Last year I made £1,600. I also found an art class at the leisure centre when I went in for my Pilates. Now I have exhibitions and all my proceeds go to the MS Society.

I get such a buzz from volunteering, it stimulates my mind, gets my body moving, and I get to help others. It gives me a purpose again and, to be honest, I get way more out of it than I did with my day job.

Now I teach boccia classes for people with MS and other disabilities, keeping people active and getting them out of the house. We bring people in and get to see them genuinely enjoying themselves.

People say there are good days and bad days in life, but for many of us, every day with MS is a struggle. So, you count your lucky stars if you can come together, have a laugh, share your experiences and take your mind off it.

MS community during the coronavirus outbreak

We’ve been so well connected during the coronavirus lockdown, it hasn’t been too bad at all. The group has launched a Gwynedd and Mon MS Society Facebook page. My Pilates instructor Angie is doing classes on there every day, and a weekly relaxation class on a Friday.

Seeing those videos every day gives you a sense of normality and means you don’t feel so isolated. This really helps, because we’re considered high risk so we can’t go anywhere. I’ve been stuck at home “shielding” since 13 March.

We’re a pretty close group, everyone has each other’s phone number, so if you need a chat with one of them you can. We’ve also set up a WhatsApp chat with everyone, with Zoom sessions each week.

The MS Society choir meet up on Zoom every Friday too, led by an award-winning professional Natural Voices choir leader. Being able to meet up online and have a sing together is brilliant. The MS Society have really come through for us during coronavirus, and in such a short time. It’s been tremendous.

Find your local group

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The COVID-19 pandemic means we can’t meet face-to-face right now, but there’s still ways to you can help us be there for everyone with MS. If you can volunteer some time remotely, by phone, video call, or online we’d love to hear from you.

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