Leinster Rugby have helped charity partner Multiple Sclerosis Ireland to launch the 31st MS Readathon, entering a new era for the sponsored reading initiative.

At the Print Museum of Ireland on Haddington Road, Leinster Rugby players James Tracy, Rhys Ruddock, Ed Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Ross Molony and Jack Conan plus Maz Reilly from the Leinster Rugby women’s team management, were joined by young fans of the MS Readathon initiative from John Scottus primary school and by MS Ireland ambassador Jordan Byrne, 23, who is living with MS.

Thanking young readers, parents, teachers and schools for their continued support, MS Ireland is now encouraging schools and home readers to sign up for the 31st MS Readathon.

This year the campaign will run from October 12th until November 12th 2018 and anyone interested is asked to visit visit www.msreadathon.ie to find out more.

Leinster and Ireland hooker James Tracy was one of the Leinster players in attendance and like Jordan, he is also an MS Ireland ambassador.

“I’m delighted to be here today to help launch MS Readathon but obviously this time with the rest of the Leinster lads as part of our charity partnership with MS Ireland.

“My sister Sara-Jane has MS and as a family we have seen the great work that MS Ireland do for those living with the condition in Ireland.

“MS Readathon is a great way of raising awareness of MS and also funds for the 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland. Doing that while learning, reading and having fun is even better again.”

The MS Readathon is Ireland’s biggest sponsored reading initiative when young readers raise funds for vital services to help people living with Multiple Sclerosis in local communities.

MS Readathon ambassador Jordan Byrne was diagnosed with MS on New Year’s Day 2015 at the age of 21.

“I knew very little about MS at the time,” she says, “I read some terrible stories. I just didn’t know what was going to happen.”

The damage that MS causes and the nature of MS attacks are often invisible to others. Jordan suffered from constant pain and fatigue. She and her family found the support they needed from MS Ireland.

“Geraldine from MS Ireland started calling around shortly after my diagnosis, to help me come to terms with things. Finally, someone understood what I was going through. MS Ireland helped me to meet other people my own age living with MS. Their support made an incredible difference.”

Jordan is positive and wishes to spread awareness for young people diagnosed with MS so that they can have someone their own age to talk to about it.

“I may have MS but MS has not got me.”

Almost 9,000 young readers in schools around the country took part last year, reading over 85,000 books in total and raising funds for people with Multiple Sclerosis in their community.

Ireland’s authors and illustrators continue to support the MS Readathon with encouraging tips and advice for young readers which can be found on www.msreadathon.ie, including Sarah Webb, Cecelia Ahern, Nicola Pierce, Catherine Doyle, Oisin McGann, Aine NiGhlinn, Ruth F Long, Erika McGann, Kieran Crowley, Chris Haughton, Claire Hennessy, Alan Nolan, Judi Curtin, Alan Early, Anna Carey, PJ Lynch, Matt Griffin, Marisa Mackle, and Pauline McLynn.

One of those authors, Cecelia Ahern, had this to say to those young readers embarking on their MS Readathon adventure.

Books are magical. You sit down, open the front cover, and as soon as you read the first few sentences, you go time travelling. You are instantly transported to other countries, worlds and planets. You can live inside other character’s minds, see what it’s like to live with another family, you can go on adventures you may only have dreamed of or that are beyond your wildest imaginations.

“Reading is the most wonderful way to explore the world and understand how other people may think, It can distract you from your own worries, it can prepare you and teach you about how you might react in a similar situation to the character.”

Multiple Sclerosis Ireland is the only national services, information and advocacy organisation supporting people with MS and their families.

Ava Battles, Chief Executive of MS Ireland commented: “Through 30 years of the MS Readathon and now into the 31st year, young readers, parents, teachers and schools have continued to support the MS community, reading and raising funds to help people living with MS and their families.

“This is greatly appreciated and as each annual MS Readathon come around, we want to acknowledge their efforts. The MS Readathon is a key annual fundraising campaign for MS Ireland.”

More than 9,000 people are living with MS in Ireland, with thousands more family members affected.

Multiple Sclerosis, meaning ‘many scars’, is the most common neurological disease of young adults in Ireland. MS affects the motor, sensory and cognitive functioning of the body and is usually diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age. There is currently no known cause or cure for the condition. MS symptoms include impaired mobility and vision, severe fatigue and cognitive difficulties. Three times more women than men are diagnosed with MS.

Funds raised by young readers around the country directly support vital services, for example the MS Ireland Information Line, enabling one-to-one support for those newly diagnosed, physiotherapy and exercise classes to help people with MS remain independent, and respite care.

To increase awareness about Multiple Sclerosis for young readers, people living with MS visit their local schools and talk about the complexity of the condition and the nature of relapses, or attacks when MS symptoms flare up.

Young readers can get their reading lists ready by checking the 2018 lists on www.msreadathon.ie featuring great books for kids from the new to the classics.

For participating schools around the country, the 31st MS Readathon will provide:

● Information leaflets and posters for each class
● A reading certificate for each participant
● Many fantastic rewards and prize draws
● Up to 10% of funds raised by each participating school may go towards the individual school

To get involved with the 31st MS Readathon 2018:
Visit: www.msreadathon.ie
Email: read@msreadathon.ie
Phone: 01 678 1624

For more information on MS and MS Ireland, visit their website on www.ms-society.ie, call their information line on 1850 233 233 or email info@ms-society.ie.