MS-UK charity dog walk

Getting out there made a world of difference

Gill and her pup took on the Big Purple Dog Walk challenge, and even made the papers

I have often thought about fundraising for a multiple sclerosis (MS) charity and looked at the challenges being set. They were always unachievable for me though, because of my mobility problems. Things like running 5K, marathons or skydiving were unappealing as and my wobbly legs would not allow it.

Then I saw the Big Purple Dog Walk challenge. I dismissed it as I thought I can’t walk very far. Then I gave it more consideration because I’d got a mini dachshund, Otis, during the lockdown. He had been a great comfort as well as getting me out the house for short walks. Completing a challenge and raising money with my little companion seemed like a perfect idea.

Going the distance

Surely this does not have to be about how far you can walk, I thought. After some deliberation I thought how about how I could adapt the challenge. I could take Otis to a different place each day and take a photo. I live by the coast so there are lots of different beaches to visit as well as parks and points of interest.

I have a rollator with a little seat, so I decided to give it a go and completed the registration form. This is it, I thought, so then I opened a JustGiving page which was something I had never done before, but it was simple.

The following day I received a telephone call from MS-UK thanking me for my application and offering me any support or help. I was also offered a bandana for Otis. I had planned to promote it on Facebook and so that was my next step but thought a photo of him wearing the bandana would hopefully boost the donations. He is very cute but I am obviously biased.

The bandana arrived but it was massive for his little body, so I made some adjustments and attached it to a piece of purple cord that I found. Job done I thought, but getting him to keep it on was the next hurdle as he was not keen. Eventually with help from my husband I managed to get a cute photo. I sent this to MS-UK and then set about posting it on Facebook.

True generosity

I was amazed as the donations started as soon as I posted it and my target of £100 was exceeded within a couple of hours. I could not believe the generous contributions being made from family, close friends as well as friends I had not spoken to for a long time. I also received many inspiring messages which meant so much and made the challenge so much easier.

MS-UK were also great at promoting the challenge and they managed to create interest from the local press so an article and photo appeared in a few local papers which I could not believe.

Then to top it all, MS-UK contacted me one morning and they asked me if I would mind being interviewed on BBC Radio Essex that afternoon. I agreed to it and then thought to myself, what am I doing? I had never done anything like this before!

BBC Radio Essex contacted me beforehand and told me how it all worked and gave me some hints to ease me before the interview. It actually went surprisingly well and I just imagined I was talking to a friend. I was really pleased that I had done it as the feedback was so kind and inspiring. I had taken medical retirement 18 months ago and had not done anything that took me out my comfort zone for so long so this really reinstated my confidence.

Thankfully it all calmed down after that and I was able to concentrate on the 31 places for me and Otis to visit. I sat and made a list but did not always stick to the plan due to the weather. My health also some days I could walk further than others.

I committed to taking a photo at each place and posted these on the JustGiving page so that everyone could see I was sticking to the challenge. We stayed locally some days but still visited areas that I had never been to before and now will definitely return.

Careful planning

As many of you with mobility problems know, there are other considerations to make when planning these visits such as parking and access to toilets, so it’s not always an easy task. However, we managed to see various points of our local Harwich and Dovercourt area as well as the River Stour at Wrabness and Manningtree, Mistley, Highwoods in Colchester and Jimmy’s Farm to name but a few.

Otis paid his respects to my mum and dad at Weeley Remembrance garden, enjoying trampling on the daffodils which I obviously stopped him doing. He has just turned one so still a mischievous pup some days.

After researching dog friendly places to visit, I was pleasantly surprised by the places you can go. Several garden centres are dog friendly, we only visited one, but several do allow dogs, so worth researching if you like a trip to a garden centre.

I will not discuss all the places we went to as you can see them on my JustGiving page, but I will be returning to many of them as well as some others that I did not manage to get to.
It was essential that some of these trips were combined with a visit to a cafe or pub, as I am sure you will appreciate and you can see from the photos. Again, so many places do allow dogs, maybe just outside but don’t let that stop you, as wearing lots of layers and a woolly hat on the really cold days makes it possible.

I am so pleased that I took up this challenge as it has benefitted me as well as raising a staggering amount of £849. It has motivated me to get out the house each day and go to different places. Otis had been walked at the same spots but this challenge forced me to look elsewhere to stretch our legs. I also received lots of inspiring and thoughtful messages which motivated me and I did not realise how much support I had.

If you do fancy raising some money then just think about what you can do. It does not have to be an amazing skydive, there are other options. I would really recommend it, just to feel like you have helped others but also to boost your own confidence and worth. Just do it!

If you do fancy raising some money then just think about what you can do. It does not have to be an amazing skydive, there are other options. I would really recommend it, just to feel like you have helped others but also to boost your own confidence and worth. Just do it!

You can visit Gill’s JustGiving page here