Multiple Sclerosis Ireland's annual READaTHON is to take place online this year, the charity has confirmed.
The aim of the annual event is to raise awareness and funds for the 9,000 people in Ireland who are living with MS.
MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system, which causes a gradual degeneration of the nerves. This results in a progressive deterioration in various functions controlled by the nervous system, such as vision, speech and movement.
Originally launched by children's author, Roald Dahl, in 1988, the READaTHON has become MS Ireland's most anticipated annual event and this year, it is needed more than ever. Fundraised income is expected to be down by almost 40% as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the event has been particularly popular among school children in the past, this year, MS Ireland is also encouraging adults to take part. It has developed a new interactive website to make it as easy as possible for people to get involved.
"We are delighted that the MS READaTHON will go ahead again this year. It is our biggest fundraising campaign and we simply cannot keep our services running without it. This year, it takes on a whole new level of importance as we hope to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and expected fundraising losses of over €1 million," commented MS Ireland CEO, Ava Battles.
Olivia Kirwan (41) from Dublin has been living with MS for the last 11 years and is the ambassador for this year's MS READaTHON. She was initially diagnosed with the condition in Halloween 2008, after presenting to A&E with optic neuritis (when the eye's optic nerve becomes inflamed).
"I had had MRI scans and bloods done and even with just those tests, it was confirmed I had MS. It was January 2009, after a lumbar puncture, when I got the full diagnosis. You need to have more than one episode to have the ‘mulitple' sclerosis diagnosis," she explained.
She said she was quite anxious during lockdown, as she was not even sure if she could do the shopping for her family.
"Getting deliveries was proving difficult so I rang MS Ireland's helpline. They were great. They advised me of the risks and the best way for me to do things to protect myself while out. We had a nice chat that really calmed my nerves," she noted.
She has a 12-year-old and 11-year-old twins and she said that they are all "really looking forward to the reading time together".
"We set a time to sit down for an hour each day and read our books and relax. The twins love audiobooks at night too to fall asleep to. We'll go through the books we have here and chat with friends that are taking part and see if we can do books swaps or make recommendations for each other," Ms Kirwan added.
The MS READaTHON will run throughout the month of November. For more information on how to get involved and help raise funds, click on www.msreadathon.ie.
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