The launch pad for The Muscle Help Foundation (MHF) was a standalone project called pole2pole. Established by Michael McGrath and Miles Peckham (angel investor & expedition partner), an ambitious goal was set to journey to both the North and South Poles, two of the most extreme places on earth, with the simple aim to raise awareness and funds for the muscle wasting disease Muscular Dystrophy (MD).
The North Pole was reached in April 2002 and the South Pole in January 2004 – in so doing, Michael made history by becoming the first disabled person in the world to have successfully led expeditions to both Poles. What makes this achievement all the more remarkable is that in 1984, aged just 18yrs, Michael was himself diagnosed with MD.
The charity was first known as ‘pole2pole’ before being later renamed ‘The Muscular Help Foundation’ and then finally ‘The Muscle Help Foundation’. Learn more about the charity’s impact, the team and its current Trustee Board.
Rooted in the idea that well executed, shared experiences can be powerfully transformative in nature, MHF delivers what it calls Muscle Dreams for children, young people and young adults (8-28yrs) in the UK with the muscle wasting disease, Muscular Dystrophy (MD) and allied neuromuscular conditions – these highly-personalised, restorative experiences are uplifting, joyful and often cathartic in nature. See testimonials from some of our beneficiaries, families, volunteers and also special messages of support from Sir Kenneth Branagh (an MHF Patron) and Sir Richard ‘Dickie’ Attenborough to name a few.
MHF is a small (one full-time paid member of staff), multi-award winning charity (entrenched in family values) with national reach. It has a singular focus to deliver 657 Muscle Dreams, one life-changing experience for every muscle in the human body.
Anchored at the heart of the charity is a unique initiative designed to allow anyone to quickly grasp, support and champion our work – learn more about the #powerof657 and how you can get involved by either fundraising for us, joining our Muscle Warrior tribe as a volunteer or becoming a strategic corporate partner.
As of January 2020, MHF will have delivered 300 Muscle Dream experiences – it’s impact is being felt across the UK by beneficiaries, families, their friends and the wider community including schools.
MHF has over many years established friendships and partnerships with other muscular dystrophy charities across the UK such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK, the Eileen McCallum Trust, DMD Pathfinders, Duchenne Family Support Group (DFSG) and Muscular Dystrophy UK as well as relationships with many UK hospices including: Acorn’s Children’s Hospice, Hope House Hospice, Chestnut Tree House Hospice, The J’s Hospice, Keech Hospice, Naomi House & Jack’s Place Hospice, Shooting Star Chase Hospice and Ty Hafan Hospice to name but a few.
MHF is a member of Together for Short Lives, a leading UK charity for children with life-threatening & life-limiting conditions. The charity is also a member of the Fundraising Regulator, Stewardship (helping the Christian community in the UK to give and to receive), the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP), the UK Genetic Disorders Partnership Network via Genetic Disorders UK (national charity working to improve the lives of individuals and families living with a genetic disorder) and Genetic Alliance UK (consisting of over 200 patients organisations working to improve the lives of patients and families affected by all types of genetic conditions).
MORE ABOUT MHF’S FOUNDER & CEO
A role model to many, Michael McGrath’s life’s mission is MHF’s work, underpinned by a desire to not only enrich the lives of others with muscular dystrophy, through powerful shared interventions but also elevate knowledge, understanding and awareness of the disease.
A long-standing advocate in promoting the D&I (diversity & inclusion) agenda, Michael has had several ‘thought leader’ pieces published in journals including HRD (HR Director) where insights about workplace authenticity, leadership, disability and sport are explored including being referred to by a critical friend as ‘an inconvenient truth’ and also characterized as a ‘technical fault’ by an East Coast Trains announcer as the train pulled out of Doncaster having made an unscheduled ‘call-of-nature’ stop.
Named in the Power 100 publication (2019, 2018, 2017 & 2016) as one of Britain’s most influential disabled people, Michael was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts (2018) by the University of Hertfordshire, in ‘recognition of his motivational and inspirational work for persons with a disability’. His 9 minute speech on the 3rd September 2018 at the Cathedral & Abbey Church of St Alban was underpinned by a plea to graduates to ‘make the discovery of their own purpose a key priority’.
Michael was appointed in July 2019 to represent the Crown as a Deputy Lieutenant (DL) in Hertfordshire, a voluntary role and in September 2019, he was invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
A sought after motivational business speaker, Michael is invited by both Private, Public and Third Sector organisations to speak at conferences, events and away days in addition to delivering bespoke workshops and masterclasses – current prevalent keynote topics include: resilience, leadership, change, risk, teamwork and diversity.
“Michael’s polar achievements are extraordinary triumphs of physical and mental endurance, and should serve as a reminder to us all that, in his own words, ‘our limits are often far beyond where we may assume them to be” (SOURCE: Alexandra Shackleton, one of Michael’s South Pole Expedition Patrons & the only granddaughter of Sir Ernest Shackleton).
Michael’s deeply moving and empowering talk entitled ‘The Power of the Polar Hug’ at Europe’s largest TEDx event in 2018 hosted by the University of Warwick explores the power of possible – keen for the message of hope, human connectivity, kindness and compassion to reach as many people globally with muscular dystrophy, you can help spread the message by watching and sharing Michael’s talk which you’ll find on his LinkedIn profile.