Ground-breaking study proves that Muscle Dream wish fulfilment experiences deliver transformational, life-enhancing benefits for children and young adults with Muscular Dystrophy. The findings of this first of its kind research was carried out by clinical psychologists at the University of Hertfordshire. Underpinned by this pioneering research, the Muscle Help Foundation charity has launched a £100k fundraising appeal that sees its #PowerOf657 campaign refreshed in the hope that it can deliver many more Muscle Dreams, reaching the target figure of 657, one life-changing experience for every muscle in the human body.
Increased confidence (70%), self-esteem (76%), starting new interests/hobbies (66%), feeling empowered to achieve life goals (73%) and developing new skills (61%) are the key impacts wish fulfilment experiences can provide to children and young adults living with life limiting conditions such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a study by the University of Hertfordshire* on behalf the Muscle Help Foundation charity has found.
This is the only known research in existence to robustly investigate and validate the transformational impacts that highly personalised dream fulfilment experiences such as taking the controls of an aircraft and experiencing level flight, enjoying the thrill of a passenger ride in a high-performance racing car, learning a new skill, or meeting a sporting hero, can have on the lives of those living with conditions such as Muscular Dystrophy.
The study, which analysed data from 82 individual wish-fulfilment experiences delivered by the Muscle Help Foundation charity covering a six-year period, as well as wider qualitative data from 152 participants analysed to understand more specifically what it was about the experiences that was described as valuable or transformative, offers rich and detailed qualitative and quantitative analysis on the impact of the experiences both from the perspective of the young person and the wider family.
The study found that wish-fulfilment experiences:
Allow recipients to realise their potential, develop new skills and grow confidence
Facilitate ongoing engagement and prevent isolation
Provide meaningful time away from the day-to-day challenges associated with living with a life-limiting condition
The research also highlights the need for ongoing efforts to create a society where disabled young people can have access to recreational activities and can live fully as citizens in their communities without disability being a barrier.
The research was the brainchild of Michael McGrath, CEO of the Muscle Help Foundation, one of the UK’s leading Muscular Dystrophy support charities. The charity, now in its 18th year, works tirelessly to help fulfil the cherished dreams and aspirations of children and young people, uniquely between the ages of 8yrs and 28yrs, with the muscle wasting condition, Muscular Dystrophy.
Michael, who lives with Muscular Dystrophy himself, is the driving force behind the charity, having undertaken two transformational, life-changing experiences that saw him make history as the first disabled person in the world to reach both the North (April 2002) and South Poles (January 2004).
|“The whole ethos of the charity is rooted in the idea that well executed experiences that fulfil a young person’s dreams and aspirations, can be powerfully transformative to their lives; and I speak from experience when it comes to that.|
Now that we have strong research that validates just how life enhancing such experiences are, it reinforces the need and urgency to deliver even more, so that the lives of more young people across the UK can be further enriched. Knowing that such interventions deliver hope, confidence, new skills and empowerment as well as joy, are immensely powerful impacts for children and young adults living with a disability.”
Dr Lizette Nolte, Principal Lecturer and Researcher on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Programme at the University of Hertfordshire who was part of the research team that completed the study, says:
|“The research robustly demonstrates the positive and lasting impacts on ‘confidence’, ‘self-esteem’ and the ‘restoration of hope’ for beneficiaries and their families of these personalised experiences, as well as helping to counter experiences of social exclusion. Such experiences provide accessibility and participation to anyone with a disability, especially children, in a way that is often not possible in everyday life.|
“Whilst the sample size analysed is relatively small, we have carried out in depth qualitative and quantitative assessment which has delivered robust findings. Since our analysis, the Muscle Help Foundation charity has now delivered a total of 423 wish fulfilment experiences – it is safe to say, based on the research findings, that the positive impacts and benefits of those Muscle Dream experiences will have been felt by all beneficiaries.”
Dr Lizette Nolte
Dr James Randall, Clinical Psychologist and Visiting Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire who was also part of the academic research team adds:
|“All of our research highlights the urgent need to develop and expand ways for young people with life-limiting conditions to be given more opportunity to live full and meaningful lives.|
A society not structured to be accessible and enabling of children and young people living with disabilities can be very isolating for them as well as their families. Wish-fulfilment activities matter a great deal and the benefits have lasting positive impacts.”
Dr James Randall
Commenting on the findings of the study, Patron of the Muscle Help Foundation charity, TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, says:
|“This research just proves how invaluable and life-changing wish fulfilment experiences like those delivered by the Muscle Help Foundation charity are in providing hope, empowerment, confidence and enabling children and young adults with life limiting conditions like Muscular Dystrophy, to truly realise their potential.|
This level of life-enhancing enrichment is needed now more than ever, especially as the impacts of the pandemic have forced so many of these families into an almost permanent state of isolation.”
As a consequence of COVID-19, the Muscle Help Foundation charity’s operational strategy had to change; the charity re-purposed from its face-to-face ‘Muscle Dreams’ experiences to delivering everything online. The charity created a suite of virtual music, art and laughter sessions, as well as an innovative ‘In Conversation With’ broadcast initiative with inspiring guests and personalities designed to engage the charity’s beneficiaries and families across the UK. The charity was supported by a BBC Children in Need funding award to help deliver more of these online experiences during the pandemic, which proved a lifeline to so many.
The charity is running a national campaign called ‘The Power of 657’ and their mission is simple; to deliver 657 transformational wish fulfilment experiences for children, young people and their families with Muscular Dystrophy in the UK – that’s one life-changing experience for every muscle in the human body.
For the charity’s beneficiaries, every ‘Muscle Dream’ experience is an opportunity to realise their potential. For their family and friends, each one opens up a support network of like-minded individuals. The charity will by the end of July delivered 423 ‘Muscle Dreams’ experiences with 234 to go to reach their overall target.
Michael says: “To deliver the remaining 235 experiences in a virtual way, which is the safest approach right now rather than delivering them in person, we need to raise £100,000 and we’re calling on the public to help us get to that target so we can enhance the lives of even more children living with Muscular Dystrophy. People can donate via the charity’s website here: https://www.musclehelp.com/powerof657
Lorraine Kelly adds: “The Muscle Help Foundation need the public’s support now more than ever so that they can continue to bring joy and enrichment to children and young adults living with Muscular Dystrophy. Please donate today.”
In the UK, some 70,000 babies, children and adults are impacted by Muscular Dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive condition that gets worse over time, is the single biggest genetic killer of children in the world today. It robs sufferers of their mobility, their independence and for those with the most severe type, predominantly children, their lives. There is no known treatment.
Michael McGrath adds: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for our beneficiaries who have faced additional social isolation, stress and financial pressures. Access to vital support and therapy services had to stop completely and we know first-hand from feedback we have received from families, that levels of anxiety and distress and deteriorating mental wellbeing have increased significantly, with many feeling even more vulnerable, distressed and exhausted.”
To donate to the charity’s fundraising appeal to deliver even more vital transformational wish fulfilment experiences for children, young people and their families with Muscular Dystrophy in the UK, head to: https://www.musclehelp.com/powerof657
BACKGROUND & KEY TIMELINES
The study was carried out by the University of Hertfordshire in partnership with the Muscle Help Foundation charity between 2015 and 2018 and assessed data from 82 routinely collected wish-fulfilment questionnaires delivered by the Muscle Help Foundation, as well as wider qualitative data from 152 participants, analysed to understand more specifically what it was about the Muscle Dreams that was described as valuable or transformative, covering a six-year period between 2010-2016.
Methodology: A mixed-method, cross-sectional retrospective design was followed. Descriptive statistical analyses were carried out on beneficiary feedback questionnaires. Thematic analysis was carried out on the qualitative data. Themes were extracted from this data which were then used to generate codes which were then aligned to key themes. The study offers rich and detailed analysis of data gathered over a six-year period, both from the perspective of the young person and the wider family.
The Muscle Help Foundation charity’s CEO Michael McGrath, who has limb girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD2A), was invited to spearhead new online photographic exhibition ‘Reflections in Colour’ that saw 50 people with different muscle-wasting conditions share how an array of stunning pictures made them feel.
Michael’s reflection came in the form of a poem here, on one of the photographs called The Holly Hill Tree (pictured below) that caught his imagination, and which forms a part of the online exhibition.
Launched in May 2021, ‘Reflections in Colour’ is a series of photographs born of the friendship between businessman Andrew Robertson, who also has limb girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) and successful cinematographer Chris Howard, both from Kent.
Michael, from Hertfordshire, is the only disabled person to have reached both the North and South Poles. The North Pole expedition in April 2002 raised significant funds for Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (now MDUK), for which Michael was a Trustee at the time.
His story of courage and determination was ‘life-changing’ for Andrew Robertson, who heard him talk soon after he himself had been diagnosed with LGMD. Andrew, 40, runs his own business and lives with his wife and eight-year-old son.
|‘The Holly Hill Tree’ – a poem by Michael McGrath|
Striking, purposeful and resilient.
And after all these years, still turning heads, still stirring imaginations, still drawing strength from mother earth.
Shaped by the elements, by the storms of life.
And yet still stable thanks to roots that nurture daily.
Much time has passed, years, many years.
And despite today’s challenging landscape, those roots are being fed like never before.
Holly Hill Tree, you are like many whose muscles are weary.
And yet, spirits are not dampened, we remain vigorous, we remain connected.
Despite the adversities of weather, we remain upright.
We see you Holly Hill Tree, despite appearances, we’re alive, we’re strong, we’re resolute.
You may look withered, you may look sad, you may look alone,
But we know there’s a beating heart that cares, that’s compassionate, that’s listening.
Whilst roots must often deal with rocks, with obstacles, with different adversities,
They more often than not break through the hardships before us, reaching upwards.
Like you Holly Hill Tree, we look to what’s possible today, to what we can control, not what we can’t.
We’re not locked down, we’re not helpless, we’re not alone.
And when the storm hit, we stood strong, we stood together, we looked up.
When we support each other, when our lives are intertwined, when we care, we will always be stronger together.
Oh Holly Hill Tree, we know its ok to not be ok, we know it’s ok to ask for help.
Look up, we see hope glinting through dark clouds, the suns warmth emerging.
Thank you Holly Hill Tree for being you, for reaching out, for casting your shadow.
We only know what we know, we only see what we see, we only feel what we feel.
You will always be striking, you will always be filled with purpose, stay hardy Holly Hill Tree.
We see your hope, your dignity, your humility, we see you Holly Hill Tree.
Andrew, who volunteers as a peer-to-peer supporter for Muscular Dystrophy UK, and his friend, Chris Howard, developed the exhibition together. Alongside each picture, Andrew recorded the thoughts of people with different muscle-wasting conditions from all over the UK.
|“I heard Michael (pictured above right) at the first-ever MDUK event I attended. He described how he had refused to allow his disability to stop him becoming a successful business and family man and how he went on to conquer the poles.|
“His words, all those years ago, have sustained me in my journey with muscular dystrophy and in my belief that life is what you make it.”
Andrew Robertson (pictured above left)
The exhibition, which features very high-quality prints, mounted on Foamex 3mm board and printed in Scotland, are available to buy here. A percentage of profits from the exhibition will be donated to the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK).
|“The idea for ‘Reflections in Colour’ was born after Chris and I shared a cup of tea after a walk around Kent Castle. Chris’ photograph named ‘Pot of Tree’ was a symbol of sharing and fun. We named the new fundraising campaign ‘Pot of Tree‘ so we could share the photographs and reflections with everyone. Every sale will result in a donation to MDUK.|
Chris’ daughter also has muscular dystrophy, and after that first experience together, Chris and I would often meet for coffee.
I was blown away by his wonderful artwork, and what we originally planned as an actual show in a Whitstable art gallery has become a virtual exhibition.”
Source: Andrew Robertson
BUY A HIGH-QUALITY PRINT
Raising funds for MDUK
BUY THE ‘REFLECTIONS IN COLOUR’ BOOK
Raising funds for MDUK
BUY ‘THE HOLLY HILL TREE’ PRINT
Raising funds for MDUK
READ THE FULL ‘REFLECTIONS IN COLOUR’ STORY
Found on Muscular Dystrophy UK’s website here
Muscular Dystrophy UK is the charity for the 70,000 people living with muscle-wasting conditions in the UK. We bring together and support people affected by more than 60 rare and very rare progressive muscle-weakening and wasting conditions. We are facing the biggest threat in our 60 years with the loss of half our forecast fundraised income (£2.8m), just when our help is most critically needed by those that we serve.
Limb girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) describes a large group of conditions, which mainly affect the shoulder and pelvic girdle muscles. The hip and thigh muscles also weaken and waste over time, causing increasing disability.
Symptoms and complications associated with the condition vary between the different types. In some people, the heart and breathing muscles are also affected, leading to life-threatening health problems. Limb girdle muscular dystrophy can be diagnosed at any age.
WATCH SPECIAL GUESTS ANDREW & CHRIS
ON MHF’S ‘IN CONVERSATION WITH’ BROADCAST
HOSTED BY MICHAEL McGRATH
The Muscle Help Foundation charity was delighted to receive confirmation of an Award following an application to BBC Children in Need’s COVID-19 Next Steps Programme (Additional Funding Phase).
A grant funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the amount of £34,909.00 was approved for resources to directly support the charity’s ongoing virtual Muscle Dream activities for children and young people with Muscular Dystrophy, isolated due to Covid-19. The grant also included a contribution towards evaluation and associated project delivery costs.
The aim of the project was to reduce isolation, improve connectivity and restore future hopes. The difference the charity made for children and young people can be summarised by the following three points:
|“There is something incredibly powerful that happened as a result of the Music 1.0 session; it has given our son hope, confidence and he has recognised what he is capable of. We know as his family just how talented and capable he is, and now he knows and believes it too which is just wonderful to see.” (Source: Mum of ‘B’, 9yrs)|
All ‘Music 1.0’ Muscle Warrior participants received:
‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ by Charlie Mackesy
‘Eat Sleep Sing’ by Stacey DeLooze
|In a mother’s own words, read a case-study illustrating the impact on the life of her 9yr-old son as a result of his participation in one of the charity’s bespoke virtual programmes.|
TO READ ‘B’s CASE STUDY, CLICK <HERE>
Music 1.0 – Virtual Muscle Dream Programme
“He would like to do it again – it 100% lifted his spirits and all of ours, and all the extra bits are so appreciated and special.”
“Our son loved it – he loves singing so much!”
“He felt loved, appreciated, noticed, nurtured and part of the Muscle Warrior tribe. He is feeling so much more positive, and his confidence has definitely been uplifted.”
“These sessions really help with isolation, and they are fun, but they also bring skills, which are so important. So excited to see what MHF does next!”
“It was our son’s first ever time on Zoom. He was so nervous as has been shielding for the past year and has not been at school. It was a big deal doing it when he hasn’t been at school for so long.”
“Through the session he relaxed, and it built up his confidence. He saw the benefits of talking and being part of something unique. He is almost 16 and it is good for him to be out of his comfort zone and be put in these positions. As a mum, I enjoyed seeing his progression.”
All the goodies that have been received have been so amazing. All read the books and absolutely loved the Charlie Mackesy one. We are all talking about the books to everyone we know.
“At the end he was smiling – he was so proud of himself for doing it.”
“Our son really lacks confidence, but it was so lovely to see that he came out of his shell as he’s such a character – he loved the session so much.”
“He has read the books and has been practising with the singing one a lot. When the little box of sweets arrived his eyes lit up, he had such a grin.”
“The whole thing has really given him the boost that he needed and to be part of something. His mood has lifted, and he has been playing on his guitar and singing much more since the session – he loves music.”
Art 1.0 – Virtual Muscle Dream Programme
“We do not lose hope – these virtual Muscle Dreams really help us with that; the support from the charity and contact has been amazing.”
“It was a very different kind of experience – the whole family enjoyed it all. Siblings have entered the creative competition.”
We are noticing each time that our son is engaging more. He feels so isolated. These virtual sessions are really helping.”
“We are so looking forward to the families catch-up this weekend; it’s so important to do. We get ideas of how to help each other and know what each other are going through as we’re all shielding. I would love this to happen more regularly.”
“Really enjoyed the session – especially liked doing the input into the drawing and seeing the work happen live in real-time, right in front of you.”
“His grow-your-own garden kit arrived yesterday – he has his own little garden so that’s great, thank you so much.”
Laughter 2.0 – Virtual Muscle Dream Programme
“This was the first time a charity has arranged something like this, with all the families together having similar circumstances. In this time of pandemic, when everyone is under such huge pressure and stress, laughter yoga or laughter exercises was really needed. We learnt about the importance of laughter to relieve stress. To be very honest, we had forgotten about how to laugh during these many months of lockdown. It elevated our moods for some time. It gave us the feeling that someone is there for us and looking after us. I hope you will plan something like this again in the future.”
“Our favourite bit was talking to the other families.”
“The event really lifted our spirits. It was just what we needed.”
“We loved the treats (got pizza); always grateful for food. We got an extra pizza for the freezer, so it is the gift that keeps on giving!”
“We loved the book, plus the ‘Cuppa & Catch-Up’ was so good to catch up with the charity. The lovely afternoon tea topped it all off.”
“Looking forward to future activities – feeling so supported by the charity, plus watching the ‘In Conversation With’ broadcast on Facebook; they’re great!”
“We’re new to the charity; it was a great first experience. It lifted our spirits. We’re looking forward to seeing what else is coming up, now we are part of the Muscle Warriors!”
|“I’ve always known that our Muscle Dream interventions make a positive, meaningful and lasting difference. Throughout the pandemic, we have witnessed how lives have changed, how our vulnerable communities have suffered and how our mental wellbeing has been impacted by the scourge of isolation. I’m so proud that the charity’s programmes ignited interests and brought families together at what for many continues to be a difficult time.|
Thanks to BBC Children in Need, the charity has extended its ability to increase engagement to hard-to-reach families. Beneficiaries have become involved in an inclusive group where the restorative benefits of ‘hope’ prevail and where personal identities and that powerful sense-of-belonging are reinforced. We have been able to continue to focus on our vision in providing an increasing number of families with the support they so desperately need.
We have taken the time to listen, to hear our families and to then plan a variety of bespoke interventions rooted in music, art and laughter. The BBC Children in Need grant enabled us to recruit two key full-time contractor roles for what essentially was an eight-week timeframe – a Virtual Muscle Dream Maker and a Community Engagement Lead, worked closely in partnership.
These programmes engaged the specific needs of 82 vulnerable children, young people and their families. We maximized the impact of this funding to reduce social isolation, improve mental health and well-being and provide hope for the future to disadvantaged families. I believe we have enabled their voices, concerns and hopes to be heard and yet there is still so much to be done and so many other families who continue to face additional social isolation, stress and financial pressures – we know this is an incredibly damaging cocktail, which is why we desperately need more support.
In addition to the day-to-day challenges that living with a disability presents, the cause and effect of COVID-19 has become strikingly evident for our community of vulnerable young people and their families – if your organisation can help us deliver even more of this work, please reach out.
CEO, The Muscle Help Foundation
National Volunteers’ Week takes place between 1st – 7th June 2021. It is an annual celebration of the incredible contributions made by millions of people across the UK through volunteering who selflessly give of themselves to help others.
Amongst a plethora of activities, the Muscle Help Foundation (MHF) charity’s army of Muscle Warrior Volunteers help to make Muscle Dreams a reality for its community.
From those that volunteer on ad hoc projects to those that give of their time to help bring on the magic to beneficiaries and families across the UK via its Muscle Dream interventions, volunteers are MHF’s life blood.
|“It’s been said that ‘you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give’. When a group of truly extraordinary people come together, much can be achieved. At 7.30pm on Wed 2 nd June 2021, the amazing people (pictured below) were spotlighted as part of NCVO's National Volunteers Week initiative, at a celebratory Zoom event in recognition of their outstanding support as volunteers for the Muscle Help Foundation charity.|
Always needed and forever appreciated, it was an enormous privilege to personally pay tribute to some of the charity's army of selfless Muscle Warrior volunteers who give their precious time to help others who are not only vulnerable but who so desperately need and deserve a little magic and joy in their lives during these testing times.
All of these wonderful people (plus others that don’t appear in the below screengrab) continue to make such a difference. They bring their compassion, they give of themselves, they care. Put simply, they are priceless, and they mean the world to us.
MHF’s personalised Muscle Dream experiences moved online due to the pandemic. They are only made possible thanks to the huge support of volunteers. This year for National Volunteers' Week we wanted to share some volunteer stories to highlight the difference they make and the vital role that so many of them have played over the last 18 years!
We spoke to some dedicated volunteers to learn more about their volunteering journeys and have captured below the essence of what it is they kindly shared with us:
’’I met 'Chief Muscle Warrior' Michael McGrath in 2009. We were judges for the 'WOW! Awards' which was ahead of its time for recognising front line workers. And Michael certainly 'wowed' me when he told me about the charity, its purpose and the beneficiaries it served.
Throughout the day he didn't mention his own condition. I was getting to know the man and the motivation. I didn't pay much attention to his wheelchair until he demonstrated its capabilities. I wasn't looking at the disability; I was absorbing joyful anecdotes, becoming energised and wanting to belong.
I wrote to Michael. Twelve years on, my volunteering roles have ranged from podcaster before it became trendy, beneficiary liaison, celebrity wing woman, and Awards application submitter. The one constant is that I became part of the MHF family which was what I had aspired to way back in 2009. It is a joyful enterprise and while the volunteering time I can devote ebbs and flows, the charity remains a constant and for that I am deeply grateful.’’
Sarah Lowther, ‘Muscle Warrior’ Volunteer
"I was a VIP Family host on MHF's flagship 2019 Porsche Muscle Dream programme in June 2019. What an unforgettably miraculous day it was, generously seasoned with joy, kindness, compassion, and empathy. For me, seeing the beneficiaries’ faces lit with surprise and awe was truly priceless.
Michael and Sue created a strong united community that came together as one big family. The warmth and emotion were beyond limits. I am truly honoured to have supported what was a magical and unforgettable day for all.’’
Milda Rowlinson (right), ‘Muscle Warrior’ Volunteer
"’I've been volunteering for MHF for several years now - mainly through my work at BCD M&E, but more recently in my own time as well. I have loved every minute! I've spent time working with Michael and the team, helping to put on some amazing experiences for all of the beneficiaries over the years.
I have most enjoyed filming and then editing the videos for the Porsche Muscle Dream event. You can see that the event is a big highlight for all of the beneficiaries in attendance on the day. It’s so fantastic to help put a smile on so many faces!’’
Nick Hamilton, (holding mic) ‘Muscle Warrior’ Volunteer
Chris began his volunteering journey 9 years ago. From hosting numerous Porsche Muscle Dream Programme experiences, to being a part of a Rare Disease Virtual Show team to taking on a cycling fundraising challenge.
’’To be a small part of an incredible charity and a wonderful team led by the incredible inspiration that is Michael McGrath, being a Muscle Warrior means so so much! We all come together with one aim, to give the ultimate experience and dreams to children who so truly deserve them most! What are we?!! Muscle Warriors!!"
Chris Holt, ‘Muscle Warrior’ Volunteer
Jess first heard of the charity back in 2013. He details his journey from being a father to his beneficiary son with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) to being a volunteer fundraiser:
’’I nominated my son Jack for a Muscle Dream at Twickenham to watch England v’s Ireland in the Six Nations. The weekend was superb from start to finish! Absolutely everything was considered, the pre-trip planning, the hotel, all the wonderful gifts, the 2-games of rugby, meals and so forth.
Jack and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I came away thinking there was something very special about this small charity. That was the start of my involvement.
Gloucester Rugby Club Former players association have been extremely supportive in holding events and raising money for MHF. Sadly, last year’s charity walk was cancelled due to the pandemic. Hopefully, we will be able to hold an event in 2022. Although we desperately need cures and treatments, just as importantly these children and young adults and their families need these kinds of wonderful experiences along the way to make happy memories. Keep up the good work all. As always, we are Stronger Together!”
Jess Haggett, ‘Muscle Warrior’ Volunteer
Sunday 30th May 2021 saw long-standing Muscle Warrior volunteer and fundraiser Danny Pallett successfully complete Snowdonia’s 10 highest peak challenge trek, an incredible journey through the jaw-dropping landscape of North Wales. This was a demanding challenge and one that required good fitness, patience and hydration from start to finish.
|“I can’t believe how much I lucked out with the weather, although at one point just after lunch it was almost too warm to get up the 4th mountain! 10 peaks, 10 Muscle Warrior salutes, 32km hiked, 2200m ascent, over 52k steps, 21 degrees heat, 4 blisters and some stunning views!|
Sunday’s Snowdonia 10 peak challenge went really well, competing the hike in just over 12 hours and with such stunning weather – kicking off at 7am sharp, we spent the first 5/6hour completing the first 3 peaks which got me used to the terrain and inclines. As we came down from the 3rd peak, we had the steepest decline and that was tough on the knees but was going to be the worst of them all.
I drank the freshest water from a mountain spring, ate all my flapjack protein bars and was guided by the best (Dave Talbot) – the team, the hike, and the whole day was just incredible and even more incredible has been the support from everyone towards the charity and myself.”
As of Tuesday 1st June 2021, £1,031.42 has been raised from 45 donations via Danny’s dedicated Golden Giving fundraising page HERE in support of the Muscle Help Foundation charity.
Below a list of the Snowdonia peaks that Danny stood tall on:
Y Garn – 947m
Glyder Fawr – 1000m
Glyder Fach – 997m
Tryfan 917m – Optional
Pen yr Ole Wen – 978m
Carnedd Dafydd – 1044m
Carnedd Llewelyn – 1064m
Foel Grach – 976m
Carnedd Gwenllian – 926m
Foel-fras – 942m
Drum – 770m
|“I am so incredibly proud of Danny! What a truly awesome effort. I know that he has been training really hard over the past year – what makes this all the more remarkable, is that we’re living through a pandemic that has disrupted some of the original challenge plans, meaning a switch to the Snowdon 10 Peaks Challenge which he succeeded in completing in just over 12hrs! WOW!|
If ever you need an example of what commitment looks like by a fully-fledged Muscle Warrior, look no further than Danny. And if like me, you’re impressed by what he’s achieved, can I encourage you to please dig deep and make a donation – he’s not only smashed his original fundraising goal of £657.00 but he’s now got an amazing story to tell and some spectacular photos.
As fundraising challenges go, this is truly what going above and beyond looks like! On behalf of the charity, huge kudos and gratitude to Danny – as we say, that’s the #powerof657!
CEO, The Muscle Help Foundation
Saturday 24th April 2021 saw Jason Smith and Sam Eustace, two fully-fledged Muscle Warrior volunteers, dig deep and head off around East Hertfordshire to succesfully complete a 70.3 ironman triathlon, known by all athletes as one of the toughest endurance events on the planet.
Despite many early morning starts, freezing temperatures during the long and dark winter months and the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, their training efforts stood them in good stead. Their carefully mapped route saw them head off from Stevenage, going near Knebworth, Hitchin, Welwyn and Hatfield then on to Hertford and down to Broxbourne and finishing up at Lee Valley Park.
|“This was a truly awesome effort by two hugely dedicated Muscle Warriors who have been supporting the charity for over six years. I know just how hard this goal has been for both Jason and Sam, not only juggling busy work lives and the commitment required to maintain their training regime over some six months but also the restrictions brought about by the pandemic.|
I am extremely grateful and very proud of what they have achieved. As you can see from their split times [1.9km swim = 45mins, 90km bike = 3hrs 33mins, 21.1km run = 1hr 58mins], they did incredibly well!
A huge thank you to their respective family members and friends for getting behind this amazing ‘iron couple’, supporting their BIG ironman triathlon efforts along the way and for the many donations still coming in!
Every penny raised will help the charity move a little closer to its goal of delivering 657 Muscle Dream interventions for children and young people with muscular dystrophy.
As they are now in the best shape of their lives, we were wondering what their next BIG challenge might be and then we remembered that in about six weeks’ time, they will be getting married – that’s the #powerof657!
As of Monday 26th April, nearly £1,700.00 has been raised via their dedicated Golden Giving fundraising page here in support of the Muscle Help Foundation charity. Having finished the challenge, their triathon split times on their Instagram page here shows just how well they did, summarised by the phrase ‘all in a days work’!
The challenge was their homage to the charity’s 18th birthday anniversary – to help celebrate, Jason and Sam (pictured below) thought they would take on their own 70.3 Ironman triathlon to raise awareness and money for the charity. In their words, “what better way to mark a big birthday than to Go BIG!”
Click the link below to donate:
Postcode Neighbourhood Trust is a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The Muscle Help Foundation made an application on 17th August 2020 as part of its wider fundraising strategy in attracting and securing funds in pursuing a resilient beneficiary led COVID-19 plan. In offsetting some of the effects of COVID-19 for the charity, the award will fund vital support over a 12-month period.
|“In recognition of the Muscle Help Foundation charity’s work at what continues to be an extremely challenging period for our vulnerable community, I am delighted that we have received this incredibly welcome award in the amount of £19,940.00 – we’re absolutely thrilled!|
I know that the volume of applications to the People’s Postcode Lottery Trusts increased by some 20% in the specific round that our charity’s application was made which makes it even more special. To be successful, you must detail very clearly what specific activities will take place, how these relate to the Trust theme and the difference that the award will make for our community.
Moving into 2021, the charity will continue to identify trust funds and grant making bodies that may be able to support our COVID-19 response efforts. Next year sees a significant milestone for the charity as we will in March 2021 be celebrating 18 years of operation – despite the uncertainties brought about by this wretched pandemic, we are more determined than ever to keep focused on our community and ultimately our mission.
If you wish to make a donation or perhaps the company you work for is thinking about adopting a small charity in 2021, look no further – not only can we demonstrate our impact in a way that’s never been achieved before by any other charity in the broad wish-fulfilment space, but we have much to offer a partnership, not least the opportunity to directly witness the magic of a Muscle Dream intervention.
To all those players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, thank you from the bottom of our hearts – please keep playing. And to the team that work for the Postcode Neighbourhood Trust, we’re enormously grateful for your support.”
For further information about the Postcode Neighbourhood Trust:
For more information about People’s Postcode Lottery:
Talented filmmaker Stephanie Castelete-Tyrrell from Northamptonshire has won a prestigious Award of Recognition from The Best Shorts Film Competition for her inspirational and educational documentary titled ‘Muscle Warriors’ – the film aims to inform audiences on how having Muscular Dystrophy (MD) can affect an individual’s mental health.
Her film proves that MD is not a barrier preventing individuals from participating in sports, specifically powerchair football. The film shows how powerchair football supports the mental health of individuals living with MD, by helping to build confidence, friendships and give a sense of purpose and belonging. The ‘Muscle Warriors’ film also focuses on changing people’s perceptions on disability by showing the player’s talents and achievements.
The film features exceptional interviewees including Ryan O’Leary (Captain of the Muscle Warriors Powerchair Football Club), Rhys Mallet and Tom Kelly. Ryan discusses powerchair football, giving an insight into his own personal experiences including how the sport helps him maintain a positive wellbeing. Rhys and Tom both express how important the sport has been for developing their social networks.
‘Muscle Warriors’ has not yet been released. The Muscle Help Foundation is encouraging its community to follow Stephanie on Twitter for updates.
Stephanie herself has MD and as a lover of film, she has not let physical barriers stop her from pursuing a career she loves. Using a customised camera stand that attaches to her wheelchair, Stephanie has a unique filming style and successfully shows the reality of living with a muscle wasting condition through her point of view.
|Stephanie Castelete-Tyrrell (pictured below), Writer, Director, Producer at Four Wheel Drive Productions said:|
“I am extremely honoured to have received this award. Making ‘Muscle Warriors’ was important to me as I felt that Muscular Dystrophy is hugely underrepresented in film. By educating my audience about the effects of the disease and illustrating how MD sufferers overcome their physical obstacles, this will help to develop people’s understanding of disabilities and ultimately remove stigma.
Through my filmmaking, I have demonstrated that having Muscular Dystrophy is not a barrier, but an aspect of life that enables you to view and film the world differently and uniquely.”
|Harry Allen, Lighting Technician & Runner said:|
“It was a pleasure working with Steph on ‘Muscle Warriors’. Steph’s creative work shines a spotlight on to some brilliant subjects, that need to be shown more.”
|Sue McGrath, Trustee, The Muscle Help Foundation said:|
“We can’t wait to watch Stephanie’s ‘Muscle Warriors’ film – the business of challenging societal perceptions, of championing difference and spotlighting the beautiful game of powerchair football are subjects close to our hearts.
On a separate note, the charity has recently harnessed Stephanie’s talents and abilities by commissioning her to produce two scripts destined for our Patrons, Lorraine Kelly and Sir Kenneth Branagh. The brief was to write two uplifting messages filled with love and positivity, at what I know is an incredibly challenging time for our Muscle Warrior community across the country.
Whilst the government’s plan for easing lockdown is lifting the spirits of some in society, I know that for those with MD, classed as extremely vulnerable, a message of hope at this time directly from our Patrons will be warmly received.”
About the Best Shorts Competition
The Best Shorts Competition recognizes film, television, videography and new media professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change.
Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film and television industry. More information about Best Shorts and a list of recent winners can be found at www.BestShorts.net
In winning a Best Shorts Award, Stephanie Castelete-Tyrrell joins the ranks of other high-profile winners of this internationally respected award including Oscar winning production Mr. Hublot from Laurent Witz from Luxembourg, Disney Interactive for Vinlymation: A Love Story and The Weinstein Company for Market Hours.
|Rick Prickett, Chair, The Best Shorts Competition had this to say about the latest winners:|
“’Best Shorts’ is not an easy award to win. Entries are received from around the world from powerhouse companies to remarkable new talent. The Best Shorts Competition helps set the standard for craft and creativity. The judges were pleased with the exceptional high quality of entries. The goal of ‘Best Shorts’ is to help winners achieve the recognition they deserve.”
The ‘Muscle Warriors’ film has not yet been released.
Follow Stephanie on Twitter @StephCastelete for further updates.
Visit: Four Wheel Drive Productions
Image Credits: Muscle Warriors PFC & Stephanie Castelete-Tyrrell
MA Film and Television
BA (Hons) Creative Writing and Film Studies
The COVID-19 crisis is affecting many charities across the country in how they operate and specifically, service delivery plans have had to change for some in dramatic ways. Below a message from the charity’s CEO Michael McGrath giving some insights into its future plans.
Pictured above: CEO, Michael McGrath
|“Unsurprisingly, we’re going virtual. As a direct result of COVID-19, we took the really difficult decision back in March to immediately cease all of our planned 2020 Muscle Dream operations. That was a tough day! It was also the start of a whole new journey – as of today (7th May), I have been in self-isolation for 57 days. We remain resolute and determined to continue our vital work. As a small charity, we are agile – we are re-purposing with one simple goal to support our beneficiaries and families virtually.|
I have spoken to many of them over the last 4-5wks and I know that because of COVID-19, they’re feeling even more vulnerable, even more isolated, anxious, distressed and in some cases terrified with the unfolding situation. That’s why we must act. That’s why we must unite. That’s why we must engage.
Firstly, we’re planning on reducing our Muscle Dream wait-list – we’re scoping out how this will work, how we will bring the experiential magic directly into people’s homes; it’s a very different way of doing things but I know that the solution will bring enormous joy and hope to some incredibly courageous and deserving young people for whom time is ticking. In doing so, we will be moving a little closer to our goal of realising 657 Muscle Dream experiences, one for every muscle in the human body.
We are also looking at how best we can leverage our social channels in communicating with our stakeholders, in helping to keep them informed and connected. We plan to establish a virtual ‘social’ events programme designed for our Muscle Warrior community.
Phase one of this new virtual strategy will be deployed before the end of May 2020. In addition to our virtual ‘social events’ programme, we are also launching an ‘In Conversation With’ online broadcast project – different guests and personalities are being invited to share their experiences and insights on a variety of topics – from isolation tips by a nuclear submarine commander, laughter yoga by a certified happiness facilitator to alleviating stress and anxiety in addition to conversations about resilience as a family, mini goal setting and psychology tips for our powerchair football community. The intention is to help our families feel less isolated, less alone and more engaged.
We’re also reaching out to our fantastic Muscle Warrior volunteers around the country and asking them to create short video messages that uplift, that burst with positivity, messages that not only inspire but also amplify our STRONGER TOGETHER ethos, more important now than ever before.
In bringing our community together during these difficult times, we’re keen to play our part in bringing a little joy, some laughter and above all some hope into the lives of those for whom the Muscle Help Foundation charity exists to serve. If you are interested in supporting our COVID-19 response efforts in any way or wish to volunteer or make a donation, do please reach out – thank you!”
And finally, below a few hints and tips from Michael to help you during these testing times:
The Muscle Help Foundation
Reg Charity No. 1096716
“The health and safety of our Muscle Warrior community is our number one priority. The Muscle Help Foundation charity has a duty of care to ensure the well-being and safety of our beneficiaries, families, volunteers and indeed anyone that we come into contact with – this is very much at the forefront of our minds; we recognise that the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is extremely unsettling” (SOURCE: Michael McGrath, Founder & CEO, The Muscle Help Foundation)
Based on current guidelines (as of 16th March 2020) and having taken counsel with the Muscle Help Foundation Trustee Board, the charity took the decision to postpone it’s 2020 signature Muscle Dream programmes ie. 8-9 June 2020 (Porsche) + 22-23 June 2020 (Flying).
In addition, we are postponing any further unique (singular) face-to-face Muscle Dream interventions until further notice. Given this fast-moving situation where updates are being made on almost a daily basis, the charity will review this position on a regular basis and will share any updates via this Latest News feed and/or via our social channels.
The charity will continue to dedicate itself to the guiding principle of protecting your wellbeing, something we take extremely seriously – we understand that every time we deliver a Muscle Dream experience, you and your loved ones put your trust in us to make the right decisions.
Over the past week, the Muscle Help Foundation has closely observed and read the increasing number of statements and information guidance notes made by several other charities and national support groups in the neuromuscular space, in addition to the Charity Commission’s recommendation to ‘check the most up to date advice from Public Health England’ – we know from direct conversations that many of our Muscle Warrior families across the UK have changed their behaviours, are taking precautionary measures and in most instances, are self-isolating.
To avoid catching or spreading Coronavirus (COVID-19), the NHS advice is clear:
DO wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 secs
DO wash your hands when you get home or into work
DO use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
DO cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
DO put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
DO try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
DON’T touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
More than 95% of the charity’s beneficiaries are those with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Click HERE to read the very informative statement from the DMD Pathfinders charity (supported by Duchenne UK) regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) including their extra precautionary suggestions for those with DMD.
The charity is continuing to closely monitor the official guidance and advice communicated via Public Health England, the UK Government and the World Health Organisation. For more information, visit:
Go to NHS.UK/coronavirus for information about the virus and how to protect yourself
Go to NHS Overview for information about Coronavirus (COVID-19)
On a more positive note, the charity is actively looking at how best it can support beneficiaries and families across the UK at this time in making sure they feel connected and part of our Muscle Warrior tribe – you can help inform this process by simply reaching out to our CEO Michael McGrath here and sharing any ideas that you may have – the more creative, the better!
Underpinned by our STRONGER TOGETHER spirit, please look out for one another and if the charity can help in any way, please GET IN TOUCH and let us know how and we will do our best – we are thinking of you all and sending a BIG Muscle Warrior salute filled with hope, courage, strength and unity!