A MORPETH-based charity, which was patronised by Bing Crosby, will certainly have a merry and bright Christmas after reaching a half a million pound fund-raising target.
The MS Research and Relief Fund, based at Stobhill, has been hard at work holding various events throughout the year to try to secure funds for a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool.
And now the charity has revealed that it has finally reached the target, meaning building work can start in the spring, during its 50th anniversary year.
Networking and Marketing Manager Sue Dowson said: “This is the biggest thing that has happened for us — we have managed to raise enough funds to build the hydrotherapy complex.
“There is nothing like this anywhere in the country outside the sporting world. It is the type of pool used by Chelsea and Manchester United football clubs, which is slightly raised up and has a built-in treadmill.
“It means that our service users, people who have not been mobile for many years, will be able to stand up and walk and run.
“The facility is costing in excess of £500,000, but we have been able to raise the funds from a whole host of charity events.
“This is a hugely exciting project for us.”
The charity, which provides a range of services for people with multiple sclerosis, their families and carers, also plans to share the pool with other organisations that help people with neurological conditions, such as the Percy Hedley Foundation.
A five-year fund-raising plan is being drawn up to support the facility’s running costs.
MS Research and Relief was initially established in Cheshire in 1964 by Robert Walker and his family after he developed multiple sclerosis.
In the 60s it attracted massive support from celebrities, including Bing Crosby who became a friend of the family. When Mr Walker’s family were unable to keep the charity going, it moved to Benmar House in Morpeth, named after regular service users Ben and Mark. Mrs Dowson is currently trying to find out more about the pair.
The Morpeth centre now supports people across the region, from Berwick to Durham, offering therapy and exercise classes, massage, reiki, reflexology, t’ai chi, pilates, yoga, art classes and coffee mornings. There is a specialist gym for MS sufferers and a range of outreach therapy services.
The fund also provides grants to help people adapt their homes or buy specialist equipment, and this year more than £90,000 has been dished out.
Mrs Dowson said: “It is a full-on, very busy centre, and when the pool is built it is going to be even bigger.
“When the charity came to Morpeth it was very much a place where people could come and talk to experts and receive information, but gradually over the years it has built up to become a fantastic centre with first class facilities.
“Everything the charity does to support people with MS is completely free. The amount of work it does in the North East is massive and from having a handful of service users, it now has more than 1,500 people using the centre just in our area.”