Hunter Region MS Fundraising Branch faces closure

THE 583 people in the Hunter living with multiple sclerosis (MS) might soon have to travel out of the region to receive support.

The Hunter Region MS Fundraising Branch is on the brink of closure due to a lack of members.

The branch is one of 14 in the country that falls under the umbrella organisation of MS Australia.

It operates from Edgeworth and raises money through barbecues, trivia nights and group activities.

This money stays within the region to provide equipment and counselling for people living with MS.

Since its foundation 15 years ago, the Hunter branch has raised about $500,000, which has helped about 300 people.

Hunter Region MS Fundraising Branch president Wilma Squire, who is a founding member, said it was not the funds the branch had difficulty securing, it was active members who could do the hands-on work.

"People [in general] often say they want to help, but when it comes to the crunch they're too busy," she said.

"But we can't raise the money without people."

The branch now has 12 members, half of which have MS.

Ms Squire said the branch had 25 members at its peak, but this figure had dwindled due to the crippling nature of MS.

The disease weakens the central nervous system by attacking the myelin sheath, which interferes with impulses within the brain, spinal chord and optic nerves.

These attacks leave scars and, depending on where they develop, can manifest into various symptoms.

She said the disease could leave a person debilitated and isolated.

Ms Squire, 73, plans to step down in July to care for her ailing husband.

However, she had promised her son, Ian, who died four years ago from a degenerative type of MS, she would do everything in her power to keep the branch going.

She said this was her final appeal to the community for new members.

■ For more information or to join the Hunter Region MS Fundraising Branch, phone secretary Kath Neilsen on 4965 8771.

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