Mother-of-two launches multiple sclerosis charity after climbing Mount Etna to raise funds
- Credit: Photo: Contributed
Toni Krok, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007, has set up a charity to help people living with the condition and their families adjust to the challenges it brings.
Britain’s newest multiple sclerosis (MS) charity, MS Positive, has started work, with an ambitious schedule of fundraising events and fitness classes.
The charity launched in October with 27 volunteers scaling the peaks of Mount Etna in Sicily, and raising over £80,000 in the process.
Then, in November, MS Positive held its UK launch, with nearly two dozen people attending free Pilates and Thai Chi classes in Golders Green, tailored to the specific needs of those with MS.
A number of trial fitness classes have been held since, with a full programme having started on January 8.
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The charity is the inspiration of north London mother-of-two Toni Krok, who was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago.
Toni wants to give anyone affected by MS the opportunity to live positively, building on her personal experience of the illness.
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“I am very appreciative of the outstanding work of existing charities such as the MS Society,” she says. “I believe that there is a need for more bespoke support, to help both individuals and their families – in particular children.”
Other plans include the launch in the spring of a helpline, to provide peer-to-peer non-medical advice and support to those with MS, and a range of small grants to help individuals and organisations working with people with MS.
In the longer term, Toni and her fellow trustees hope to be able to purchase a building to house all its support services.
An explosive start
Toni Krok, together with her committee, gave MS Positive a really explosive start, raising in excess of £80,000 by successfully scaling Mount Etna – Europe’s highest active volcano.
Toni and her husband Dovi, with 25 friends and supporters, climbed over a kilometre in height, crossing two fresh lava fields, to make it to Etna’s 3,345 metre summit, before running down over 400 metres of loose rock and scree.
The group walked over 60 kilometres in just three days, ascending two kilometres in total, to raise considerably more than double their original fundraising target.
Further donations can still be made via mspositive.co.uk, where you can read more about MS Positive’s activities.
Toni says: “MS affects everyone differently. We have good days and bad days and we can’t control that. But what we can control is how we respond to what we are going through.
“As Sir Edmund Hillary said, ‘It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves’. Being alone with my thoughts as I climbed I found a peacefulness with myself and with my diagnosis and my life.
“Staying positive – focusing on what we can do rather than what we can’t – is what MS Positive is all about.
“Climbing Etna was about showing what we can do when we put our minds to it. That’s why we are calling MS Positive ‘The MS charity with the can-do attitude’.”
The ascent in October, marked the launch of MS Positive, which supports individuals and families in north London affected by multiple sclerosis.
MS POSITIVE PRINCIPLES
MS Positive provides practical and emotional support to MS patients and their families.
• It believes that enriching the MS patient with a positive attitude filters through to their family, enabling them to view a life-changing diagnosis in a more positive light.
• MS Positive understands your life has changed and will never be the same, but believes that given time one is able to access a positive outlook that can only be beneficial to the family.
• It appreciates that doors in life close and we may love what we have left behind, but will help you find the tools to accept your new life.
• The organisation believes open and honest communication with your family about the disease helps you all accept new situation.
The last few weeks have been awesome.
Walking up a live volcano, climbing the equivalent of Ben Nevis, well that was an amazing feeling of achievement, to know I could (still) do it.
But it was our first training session in the backstreets of Golders Green that really set my soul of fire. Because that’s when raising money turned into really helping people. It was a dream come true.
It’s a weird thought, but I’m a bit like a parasite: I’m feeding my soul off other people’s woes, the only difference being that my woes are no different.
While sitting in the studio it dawned on me that each and every person with this disease has the same thought: ‘I can’t do what I used to do. It makes me mad.’
All of us physically look so different; some have Relapsing Remitting MS, some have Primary Progressive MS, some have Secondary Primary Progressive MS.
So, in a nutshell, physically we feel the disease differently. But emotionally we all have one big struggle, and that’s that we can’t do what we used to do, and it drives us mad.
But the lesson I am learning every day is: so what if you can’t do everything that you used to do?
With determination and with pride you can still do something, and if we all keep trying we can make a real difference to other people’s lives.
I know MS is frustrating, but that’s life, and we need to accept it and do the best we can with what we have.
I used to run up and down the tennis court like a possessed person, now if I manage five good shots I feel like Boris Becker.
And that’s the feeling I want to share, through MS Positive, with everyone with MS.
Because I tell you, I’m doing just fine and so can you.
Weekly Pilates classes
There will be a free class on Monday, January 22 (2-3pm)
Weekly Thai Chi classes
There will be a free class on Friday, January 19 (1-2pm)
Sunday, February 4
For more information and to book a place visit mspositive.co.uk.