MS community fundraiser surpasses goal, helping to support life-changing research at the University

Teams involved in CHALLENGE MS hosted their biggest event for the campaign, celebrating raising $30,000, which will establish a new MS Research Master’s Scholarship from next year.

The celebration was hosted at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Kelburn campus, with affected families and the University’s Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research team attending, “beaming with pride.”

The campaign was made up of four teams, each raising money from their own communities for the cause. Teams were led by Amanda Hargreaves—Manager of Manawa Ora Student Wellbeing, her mother Jenny (who has lived with MS for more than 40 years), Amanda’s daughter Mia, and Dr Georgia Lenihan-Geels, who led a group from the University’s School of Biological Sciences making up Team Koiora.

Each team was ecstatic to have reached the campaign’s fundraising goal, enabling the school to establish a MS Research Master’s Scholarship to begin in 2024.

This student will work in leading MS immunologist Professor Anne La Flamme’s lab to improve the lives of people with MS.

“Charitable giving allows us to advance in new ways, to follow a new idea, and to have the rare freedom to do so,” says Professor La Flamme. “These extraordinary gifts will allow us to employ a Master’s student who can advance our treatments and understandings of MS in ways that enable us to improve lives.”

Professor La Flamme thanked the Hargreaves family for their vision and commitment to the campaign, and for recognising the urgent need for greater research capability into MS in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Amanda Hargreaves said when she started thinking about the fundraiser, her goal was $5,000.

“Then I met with Professor Anne who said a MS Research Scholarship of $30,000 would be great. We trimmed it down to $20,000 but I still felt quite overwhelmed!

"I am so happy to be here today saying we smashed it.”

Going ever further in her commitment to the campaign, Amanda also fulfilled a campaign promise at the event—publicly shaving her head in recognition of the target being reached, while her daughter 12-year-old Mia enjoyed great success in hosting her own bake sale. Thanks to Headstart Hair Design in Kilbirnie, Amanda’s long locks will be made into a wig and provided to someone in need from New Zealand or Australia.

Special guest MP Golriz Ghahraman also expressed her support for the campaign and spoke of her own experience living with MS.

“My symptoms like many started with a funny little attack in my left eye that started to blur my vision. Then it was creeping numbness in my legs.

"It was really important to me to be open about my MS diagnosis so that I could share that not only is this really hard, and not only do we need support, but we are also very much alive. We are successful and hard-working people too. There is more to us than this diagnosis.”

Ms Ghahraman further reflected on the urgent need for research on MS in Aotearoa, sharing that we have one of the highest rates of MS in the world with 1 in 1,000 New Zealanders estimated to be living with MS.

“I thank you so much for turning up to World MS Day and for donating to this vital research. For those living with MS, we deserve to survive and thrive, and it is our right to be included in all of our communities.

“New Zealand is so lacking in MS experts and a scholarship like this couldn’t be more important right now.”

Teams that took part in the community fundraising challenge exceeded the campaign goal of $20,000 to establish a new MS Research Master’s Scholarship. Thanks to many generous community donors they raised over $11,000. Combined with the New Zealand Multiple Sclerosis Research Trust’s incredible pledge of $20,000, the new scholarship will be valued at $31,000.