UK charities have faced some unanimous blows over the past months. However the varying impacts of the pandemic – especially when considering differences in income, charity cause, and the types of beneficiaries charities cater to – is a source of difference that sets charity experiences apart. One charity that has found this particularly challenging is The Muscle Help Foundation. CEO of the charity Michael McGrath explains why, as well as what you can do to support them.

In March 2020, the charity took the difficult decision 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. The charity and I remain resolute and utterly determined to continue our vital work. As a small charity with just one full-time head and some outstanding volunteers, we are agile – we have pivoted and re-purposed with one simple goal to support our beneficiaries and families virtually.

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 and to let them know that we’re thinking of them but also explore how the charity can support them. Many I know are feeling more vulnerable, more isolated, more alone, increasingly anxious, distressed and in some cases terrified. In addition to the Government advice on shielding found here, there have been some very useful COVID-19 updates from some of our charity friends including Muscular Dystrophy UK, Action Duchenne and Duchenne UK.

That’s why we must act. That’s why we must unite. That’s why we must engage.

Firstly, we’re working on reducing our Muscle Dream wait-list – we’ve scoped out how this will work and how we can bring the experiential magic directly into people’s homes. It is a very different way of doing things but I know that the solution will 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 goal of realising 657 Muscle Dream experiences, that’s one for every muscle in the human body.

We have for a number of years recognised the importance of digital. We are working hard in leveraging our social channels in communicating with our stakeholders, in helping to keep them informed and connected, whilst making sure that the needs of our community remain forefront of mind. 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. I’m pleased to say that feedback so far has been great.

In addition to our virtual ‘social events’ programme, we have launched our ‘In Conversation With’ online broadcast project purposefully designed with our community in mind – different guests and personalities are now being invited to share their stories and insights on a variety of topics – from isolation tips by a nuclear submarine commander, laughter yoga by a certified happiness facilitator to alleviating stress and anxiety in addition to conversations about resilience as a family, mini goal setting and psychology tips for our powerchair football community. The intention is to help our families feel less isolated and more connected and engaged.

Our next ‘In Conversation With’ guest is Lorraine Kelly, a Patron for the charity – for more info click HERE and be sure you tune in on Friday 18th September at 4pm on the charity’s Facebook or YouTube channels.

Since March 2020, we’ve been reaching out to our fantastic Muscle Warrior Volunteers around the country and asking them to create short video messages that uplift, that burst with positivity, messages that not only inspire but also amplify our STRONGER TOGETHER ethos, more important now than ever before.

In working hard to bring our community together during these difficult times, we’re 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 are interested in supporting our COVID-19 response efforts in any way or wish to volunteer or make a donation so we can continue our work, please reach out – thank you!

Michael McGrath
CEO, The Muscle Help Foundation

Michael founded The Muscle Help Foundation (MHF) a national charity delivering transformational experiences in the UK called Muscle Dreams for children & young people (8-28yrs) with muscular dystrophy & allied neuromuscular conditions.

Michael is affectionately known as the ‘Chief Muscle Warrior’ – to date, he has personally hosted the delivery of every ‘Muscle Dream’ experience. Amongst other awards, MHF is a three-times winner of the ‘Inspiring Hertfordshire’ Award for Best Social Enterprise of the Year.

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