Earlier this month we celebrated the wonderful supporters who generously chose to include MS Research Australia in their Wills. Along with other charities during Include a Charity Week (September 7 to 13), we encouraged conversation about these life-changing gifts to build awareness and increase the positive impact we can all have on society.
Many people don’t know the lasting impact of these gifts. In fact, gifts in Wills often form the financial backbone of a charity. For some, they fund up to one-third of the charity’s crucial mission. Even the most modest of gifts make a huge difference in creating a better future for those who need it most – people like Kristen, who lives with MS.
Kristen, 46, is powering MS research by including a gift in her Will.
Kristen was diagnosed with MS when she was just 20 years old. Life was demanding. She was in her final year of university, nearing exams and getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night when she experienced her first symptoms.
“One Friday, I woke up and couldn’t feel my left leg from the knee down. When I got home that night, I couldn’t feel my right leg either. Come the Monday, I could barely walk”, Kristen recalls, “and the first 12 months after my diagnosis weren’t great. I had more relapses than I ever had.”
Kristen persevered over the next few years, completing her second degree in teaching and starting her career. She started and stopped various treatments, each with its own side effects. “Weight gain, flu, shakes, fevers and chills… all the classic symptoms”, Kristen shares.
Today, Kristen is starting her third round of a new treatment and lives with secondary progressive MS (SPMS). While MS has presented challenges, Kristen remains positive and credits her parents for her strong will and determination.
“MS is not who I am. It doesn’t define me. That’s been my thing all along – it might knock me down now and then but it’s not going to beat me. At the moment I have issues with my legs and my gait’s terrible, but I want to be walking as long as I can.”
In the last 12-18 months, Kristen has been “a little more kind to myself”, adding that she loves being outdoors gardening with her mum, and sharing cuddles with her cavoodle, Leo.
Reflecting on how things have changed since her diagnosis, Kristen is thankful for the growing awareness of MS in the community.
“MS is more visible than it used to be and I’m glad it is. We need more people talking about it because it has a significant impact on the lives of so many.”
This sentiment and Kristen’s unwavering positivity are echoed in what she hopes to achieve from the generous gift in her Will to MS Research Australia.
“A cure is the ultimate end goal for me, but it’s also about keeping the conversation going and building awareness. If the researchers don’t find a cure in my life, then it’ll be after I’m gone and it makes me happy I can leave a legacy and know the money is going to a very important cause. MS has been such a big part of my life, there has got to be something good that comes of all this. This is how I give it some meaning.”
What does a gift in your Will mean for MS research?
Medical research has been behind every major improvement in the health of people with MS. It’s resulted in more treatments (14 medications are approved for the treatment of MS today, compared to none twenty years ago), better quality of life for more people, and the very real prospect of a cure.
Dr Julia Morahan, Head of Research at MS Research Australia, highlights how gifts in Wills are helping to accelerate MS research. “The more funds that are invested in medical research, the less power MS will have over people’s lives. Thanks to the generosity of people like Kristen who are leaving a gift in their Will, MS researchers have been able to make great progress in a short time taking us closer to a world free from MS for future generations.”
That’s why gifts in Wills are so important. They provide stability and pave the way to a future where no person’s choices, freedom or quality of life are reduced by MS. This is the future we strive for.
If you would like to discuss the possibility of leaving a gift in your Will please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Nicki, our friendly Gifts in Wills Manager via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 02 8413 7927.