Since March 2020, the COVID-19 crisis has affected many charities across the country, not least in how they operate. For some, service delivery plans have changed dramatically.

Below a message from the charity’s CEO Michael McGrath (updated on 16th October 2020) giving some insights into how the charity expeditiously pivoted and re-purposed – this statement includes a view on current activities and future plans.

The key objective moving to the end of 2020 and into the new 2021 year (the charity’s 18th anniversary year) is to ensure that the needs of it’s community, it’s beneficiaries and families, all of whom are by default vulnerable, are being met at this extremely challenging time.

A scenario planning document for COVID-19 has been created based on four different scenarios, namely – 1) Rapid Recovery, 2) Extended Lockdown, 3) Repeated Waves and, 4) Global Downturns, based against four key identified categories, namely – A) Beneficiaries, B) People, C) Finances and D) Relationships. Scenario planning is now a fixed agenda item as part of the charity’s monthly virtual Trustee Board discussions.

Pictured above: CEO, Michael McGrath

“The charity shifted to a virtual position. Because of COVID-19, we took the difficult decision back in March 2020 to immediately cease all of our planned 2020 Muscle Dream operations. Believe me, that was a really really hard day! It was also the start of a whole new journey.

I’m a hardened shielder. As of the 16th October 2020, my wife and I have been shielding for 218 days and yes, I’m counting! I personally know of many families who have passed the 200 day mark! It’s not easy. The latest set of country-wide local COVID-19 restrictions and alert levels, in addition to for example communications from local organisations such as Hertfordshire’s Local Resilience Forum (LRF) , a partnership of some 60 organisations (from emergency services, local councils and health services to volunteers) which is now calling on the residents of the county “to act now and ‘Play your Part’ to slow the rapid spread of coronavirus”, the challenging landscape that is COVID-19 remains firmly in place. For those who are vulnerable, the prevalence of such news is wearing, it’s hard and it doesn’t look this virus is going away anytime soon.

That said, I am more determined than ever to continue our vital work. As a small charity with one full-time head, some freelance consultants helping on specific projects and activities, together with some truly amazing volunteers, we are focused on the needs of our community. We have one simple goal – to support our beneficiaries and families as much as we’re able to.

Since COVID-19 began, I have spoken to many of our families across the UK to personally check-in and first and foremost see how they are, let them know we’re thinking of them but also explore how the charity can support them moving forwards. Many I know feel incredibly vulnerable, more isolated, more alone, increasingly anxious, distressed and in some cases terrified. In addition to the Government advice on shielding here, there have been useful COVID-19 updates from some of our charity friends including Muscular Dystrophy UK, Action Duchenne and Duchenne UK.

We must continue to act, to unite, to collaborate – despite their being several charities in for example the muscular dystrophy space here in the UK, as well as a plethora of rare disease organisations, it’s my fervent belief that we must come together and support each other. That’s why the Muscle Help Foundation charity is now having more conversations of a collaborative nature over the coming months – at times like these, building trusting partnerships that are mutually beneficial and that have those communities we support forefront of mind, that must surely be a good thing.

We are focused on reducing our Muscle Dream wait-list – we’re constantly reviewing our operational capability in how we can bring our experiential magic directly into people’s homes.

It’s a very different way of doing things but I know that such interventions bring joy and hope to some incredibly courageous and deserving young people, many for whom time is ticking. In doing so, we will be moving a little closer to our mission of realising 657 Muscle Dream experiences, that’s one for every muscle in the human body.

We recognise the importance of digital. We are working hard in leveraging our social channels in communicating with stakeholders, in keeping them informed and connected, whilst making sure that we are listening to and acting upon the needs of our community.

We have established a virtual ‘social’ events programme designed for our Muscle Warrior community including our monthly BIG 657 Quiz Night. Phase one of this new virtual strategy has been deployed – feedback thus far has been great.

In addition to our virtual ‘social’ events programme, we launched our In Conversation With online broadcast project. This was purposefully designed with our community in mind – since May 2020, different guests and personalities have been invited to share their stories and insights on a variety of topics – from isolation tips by a former nuclear submarine commander, laughter yoga by a certified happiness facilitator to alleviating stress and anxiety in addition to conversations about resilience as a family and psychology tips for our powerchair football community. The intention is to help families feel less isolated and more connected. By the end of November, the charity won’t be far off reaching in excess of 50,000 people across the country through conversations that entertain, inspire, inform and uplift.

We recently reached out to our fantastic Muscle Warrior Volunteers around the country and asked them to create short video messages that burst with positivity, messages that not only inspire but amplify our STRONGER TOGETHER ethos, more important now than ever before.

In continuing to work to bring our community together during these times of adversity, we are keen to play our part in providing a little joy, some laughter and above all bring some hope into the lives of those for whom the charity exists to serve.

If you wish to support our COVID-19 response efforts in some way, please consider making a donation so we can continue our important work – right now, every penny counts. Thank you!”

Michael McGrath
CEO, The Muscle Help Foundation

COVID-19 statement updated 16.10.20

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