Thereis no greater privilege in life than helping others – that’s the philosophy of Tyrone Gaelic senior football team manager Mickey Harte. Mickey, a well-known figure both on and off the pitch, has taken up his new role as patron of Action MS, Northern Ireland’s leading multiple sclerosis charity.
And he is looking forward to becoming a team player with Action MS, taking advantage of the fact he is very much in the public eye and admired not only by people in the sporting world, but also those who see him as a role model. It is his profile which he hopes will help to generate greater awareness of not only multiple sclerosis and the many sufferers across Northern Ireland, but also the charity which plays a vital role in raising much-needed cash.
A supporter of Action MS since the early eighties, the now patron will be aiming to bring the services of Action MS out to rural communities, which are largely neglected by many charities through no fault of their own.
Tyrone’s most successful manager ever and the man credited with revitalising the team took time out from his busy schedule earlier this week to chat to me about his new role and his hopes for the future of the charity and its goals.
“I got involved through the Action MS walks which they hold every year throughout the North. They’re always so well organised and the one thing which really stood out for me was the fact the charity holds luncheons to say ‘thank you’ to the top collectors. The luncheons give Action MS the opportunity to thank those who have participated in the walks, and to say ‘thank-you’ really makes all the difference,” he said.
Mickey has also had first hand experience of seeing a relative cope with the daily challenges that multiple sclerosis brings about.
“My wife’s auntie had MS,” he said. “There are so many versions of it in terms of speed and progression, but she was fortunate in that she survived so long. That was my initial contact with MS and as a result of seeing my wife’s auntie with it, I became more aware and had a better understanding of what MS was all about.”
And the Tyrone manager has spoken very highly of Action MS Chief Executive Ann Walker with whom he will be working closely in his new role.
“Ann is such a great character; she is inspirational and she’s great to work with. She is hard-working and she has a passion for what she does, as well as the ability to get a host of different people involved,” he said.
Mickey also pointed out that charities such as Action MS are not receiving the government funding that they should be. And in his role as patron, he will be spearheading fundraising appeals to bring Action MS services out to the more rural communities throughout all counties.
“One of the aims is to have facilities within each county, because at the moment, and this is the case with a lot of charities, they are more Belfast-based and the rural areas tend to be neglected,” he said.
“Those services include reflexology, digital inclusion and befriending, and for many sufferers of MS, they can be life-changing.
“They also cost money and if I can help in any way because of my role then I am happy to do so,” he said. “There is just not enough funding available and if people didn’t contribute to Action MS the people suffering would be a lot worse off,” he said.
Northern Ireland has the second highest rate of multiple sclerosis worldwide, affecting thousand of people.
Its Chief Executive Ann Walker said Mickey has been involved with Action MS for some 27 years and she praised his dedication to the charity.
“During that time he has been a great encourager, bringing practical help and know-how. In launching Mickey as a new patron of Action MS we acknowledge the enormous contribution he has made to the work of Action MS and look forward to the future,” she said.
Action MS offers a range of support services including digital Inclusion, medicare breaks, support for children and families, free legal advice and befriending. Action MS information leaflets are also available.
If you are living with multiple sclerosis and want to speak to the charity, please contact Executive Director Jayne Smyth on 028 9079 0707 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donate online at www.actionms.co.uk.