Congratulations to all the MS Go for Gold Scholarship recipients for 2022.
Congratulations to the 25 recipients of our 2022 MS Go for Gold Scholarships! We once again had an overwhelming response to the program, receiving 165 applications this year, all for a variety of inspiring goals. The judges found it extremely difficult to award only 25 applicants this year, as there were so many deserving applications.
Please remember, if you need support or services to live well with MS – we are here for you. Contact our Plus Connect team on 1800 042 138 to find out how we can help you or your loved ones.
Libby was diagnosed with an aggressive form of MS in 2019, requiring a stem cell transplant from a specialist team in Sydney. The transplant meant 6 months off work and due to the nature of her symptoms, strenuous activity is difficult for her. Sadly, just after her transplant, Libby’s fiancé was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Libby and her fiancé bought their first home last year and wanted to create a garden oasis where they could spend time together and grow healthy food for them both to enjoy.
‘I found joy in spending time in our new garden that has previously been neglected. It not only gave me a sense of purpose in the day but also made me get outside into the sunshine and get the body moving.
'It has become my new hobby and truly has gotten me through the tough times mentally and physically. My dream is to work on two projects within our garden including creating a vegetable/herb patch and secondly transforming our garden into a place that is truly special.’
‘Creating a beautiful garden oasis has and will be an important project that we can both enjoy.’
‘My dream is to build a shed in our backyard, where I can spend time doing watercolour paintings, creating, writing my poetry and finally getting my story organised so I can publish my own book.’
Lyndie has experienced many hurdles with her health over more than 30 years, in addition to her MS diagnosis, and has found relief and inspiration through creative expression. Her wish is to create a dedicate space for herself to do all the writing and artwork she has longed to do for many years, providing her with a sense of purpose.
‘I love to create scrapbook pages, my 3 older boys have their own albums. I would create an album for my youngest in my new space and show him how to set up as I did with the older boys. They used to enjoy this time with me. I also wish to be able to extend my existing gift card range I started as a hobby in 2012. With no space other than my bedroom to do any of the things I love to do I felt frustrated.
‘Achieving this dream would greatly impact my world and give me a brighter outlook for the future. Time spent in the studio will not only benefit me but my whole family spent within my creative space will allow me to have a purpose which at present is hard to maintain.
‘Being able to sustain some of my past hobbies will allow me to feel like I’m contributing to the household and show my boys that whatever life throws at you, you can never give in.’
When Ben started losing mobility about 5 years ago due to his Primary Progressive MS, he decided to learn to draw and paint, as a way of staying connected with his young daughters and as therapy to help to manage his chronic pain. As his children have grown, Ben’s dream has evolved to wanting to take art classes and use professional materials to paint their portraits.
‘My dream is to be able to paint my daughters, especially - through their different ages — and by doing that stay close and connected to them. I feel like the process of painting them will keep us closer, as they are getting older and going to high school, they spend more time out of home as I seem to spend more time at home.’
There are many online art classes available for Ben to participate in, learn and develop his skills. This is very fortunate as he is able to manage his fatigue and participate at times of the day when he has the most energy.
‘The ultimate dream is that, by learning painting and art techniques, it will allow me to continue to connect with my daughters plus act as a form of therapy for my pain and fatigue. One day I may be able sell paintings and contribute even more to my family.’
Ever since she was little, Emily has dreamed of becoming an artist. After losing her father, who was her biggest supporter and following her MS diagnosis, Emily lost her passion for art. After a while, Emily realised that others could benefit from her experiences and she became a Plus Peer Support leader, providing one on one phone support and organising a group of local peers to get together and share their MS journeys. Emily is now in a place where she feels ready to begin creating art again and her wish is to attend art classes and purchase art supplies, with the hope of one day helping others through art.
‘I have a dream of one day leading and guiding others with MS to heal themselves and their lives through art and encouraging them to rediscover their joy, something that can be lost amid MS-related busy-ness.
‘Participating in a regular art class would give me something to look forward to, that way I could redirect my focus from my MS symptoms, such as fatigue, and use the intention to attend the art classes to motivate me to get out of bed in the morning.’
Emily will use these skills to teach other people living with MS within her Peer Support Group.
‘Some people living with MS experience depression from time-to-time and art can alleviate depressive feelings by giving a person something else to focus their thoughts on. Some people find the practice of making art calming, almost meditative.’
Nicole was diagnosed with MS 21 years ago, at the age of 25. Nicole’s patchworking and quilting has provided her with an important way to carve out time to relax and recharge. However, due to her MS symptoms, Nicole is finding it increasingly difficult to continuing creating. Purchasing a computerised sewing machine and other appropriate aids, will mean Nicole is able to continue doing what she loves.
‘I have been a quilter for many years and have enjoyed creating and making beautiful things. Patchwork and quilting are my creative spaces, my down time, my way to relax and my way to recharge. I have always hand pieced and hand quilted all my pieces, but MS has taken much of this away from me.
‘[Purchasing a sewing machine and aids] means I can continue to carve out time and space in my busy life for creativity and for doing something I love. It also means that when I am no longer able to hand piece at all, I have an alternative.’
Diana, a sociology PhD candidate, was a carer for her mother who had MS and was diagnosed with MS herself 3 years ago. Diana was asked to consult on a PhD research project due to her lived experience.
However, as the intersection between her own research interests and lived experience became clear, Diana became an Associate Investigator, leading the design of an app that uses mobile phone sensors to track nuanced changes in walking adaptability. These sensitive digital biomarkers have been shown to reflect subtle but relevant changes in MS status.
‘MS doesn't affect individuals evenly. I firmly believe we need to understand the broader ecology of people's lives to make sense of its impacts. I grew up differently, with a lot of caring responsibilities for my mum who has MS.
‘My own MS diagnosis has meant I’ve again experienced further disruptions to my studies.
I want to help develop this technology for others who are experiencing MS without the knowledge I have had access to. It is hard living with a chronic illness. I keep a positive mindset though and projects like this give me purpose.
‘I want to undertake a course at RMIT, to learn more about UX Design (an important part of creating an app) so I can apply the problem-solving skills I’ve developed through a life oriented by MS to help other people. I want the parts I have found hard about MS, to be a little bit easier for people who walk this path in the future.’
Beate has loved riding ever since she got her first bike for her 8th birthday. She would ride almost every day and, later, ride a bike to work no matter what the weather. After her MS diagnosis, Beate continued riding as long as she could, switching to an ebike when pedalling became too hard. However, due to balance issues, Beate began to have difficulty staying on the bike and had several bad falls. Suddenly, riding a bike wasn’t fun anymore.
‘I didn’t want to give away riding and being active. The scholarship will help me to achieve my dream to ride again.
‘These days e-Trikes are available – making riding again possible. Riding an e-trike would be a dream for me. I am less likely to lose my balance and it would remind me of my childhood, when I rode a bike and just had fun and enjoyed everything around me.’
Beate also plans to join a group of local riders who meet every Saturday for a 20km ride and café catch up as well as go on rides with her husband.
‘Many years ago, when we went to the mainland, we rented mountain bikes to ride on a very well-made bike track. The track was flat and easy to ride, but this type of bike was for me very uncomfortable and I had a fall. A trike will be a much safer option for me. The mainland has lots of possibilities to ride on bike tracks and fortunately, we also have many great tracks in Tasmania.’
Lucy is a writer, who by 38 had published a novel. However, after two children and an MS diagnosis, Lucy stopped writing.
‘By 45 I began having MS relapses. It was a very scary time. As my physical condition deteriorated, it felt vitally important to assert my inner self by starting a writing project, after seven years of being immersed in motherhood. With the demands on my time, writing a novel was impossible, so I wrote short stories, fictionalising the world I live in — a small country town in NSW.’
After nearly two years of writing whenever she had the chance — at the kitchen table, in her younger child’s classroom, in the ward at hospital while getting her six-monthly infusions, in scraps of time here and there — Lucy had 6 completed short stories.
Lucy will now have the chance to publish her work, and to collaborate with local artists to develop illustrations.
‘Reading has always helped me understand and appreciate life; as a writer, I hope to do the same for other readers. I write about the everyday, and try to convey the beauty, interest and value that can be always found all around us.
‘Grassy Box Woodlands’, the title of this collection of stories, represents the ideal life that lives alongside, or buried beneath, our actual life. Before colonial settlers arrived, most of the land in central-west NSW where I live, was grassy box woodlands - native grasslands dotted with huge, spreading eucalypts. It was often described as “park-like” and would have been gracious and beautiful. Now it is an ‘industrial landscape’ of farms and fences, tree stumps, ploughed paddocks…but here and there, you get a glimpse of grassy box woodlands, enough to imagine what it would have been like.
‘These stories are interested in the ‘grassy box woodlands’ moments of our own selves, when the industrial landscape of jobs, family, health, relationships, getting by, making do, suddenly clears away to reveal a glimpse of something else: who you were, who you could be, who you truly are. These stories are dedicated to Gillian Mears, a writer and a friend, who died at 51 after a battle with MS.’
Steve’s sister Lisa applied for the scholarship on Steve’s behalf and says, ‘Steven is an adventurer. Before his diagnosis he would save money and then go on a holiday only to return and start all over again. He is limited in how far he can travel now and community access is very important to him.
‘He loves drives and people watching, libraries and reading but most of all he loves animals and loves visiting zoos and animal parks. Unfortunately, they are a long distance from where he lives and transport costs prevent Steve from being able to go out much.
Steve is reliant on a powered wheelchair and taxi funding to get around and experiences extreme pain, which has lea to depression and anxiety.
‘During the worst days, being around animals was the one thing that helped him to feel more like himself again,’ Lisa says.
Thanks to the scholarship funds, Steve is now one step closer to buying a car. Being able to get around more easily will mean Steve can not only visit animal parks and other leisure activities but also once again visit his 85-year-old dad and reconnect with friends.
‘Having his own car will mean Steve can adventure again.’
‘I come from a family with several generations of artists (painting, drawing, printmakers, silversmiths, fabric design) going back to the 1800s but due to family and work requirements since my late teens I have never really been in a position to do anything with the ability that many people tell me I have,’ Virginia says.
‘After stopping work in early 2019 due to my MS, my GP and neurologist both read me the riot act about ensuring I keep my mind active and not slip into becoming a couch potato. I did something I hadn’t thought possible and applied to and was accepted into a Fine Arts Degree at the University of Tasmania on a part-time basis – over three semesters I did units in Drawing, Sculpture and Textiles.’
Unfortunately, Virginia was unable to complete her degree as her MS symptoms made it too difficult to attend classes. However, study had reignited her creative spark and motivated Virginia to continue drawing, painting and textile works on her own.
With the new air-thread overlocker sewing machine and height adjustable electric desk Virginia was able to purchase with her scholarship means she can fulfill her dream.
‘[The new machine] means the time I spent at Uni won’t have been wasted and will make all the hard work and effort I put in worthwhile because I will be putting it to use. I have a goal of being able to produce work which is of a standard good enough to be displayed publicly,’ Virginia says.
Chris had to put his love for photography on hold after his symptoms made it increasingly difficult for him to use a standard handheld camera.
‘The more impacted my life is becoming by MS, the more I am realising the importance of re-establishing a connection with my original passion,’ Chris says.
Being able to purchase a drone camera will allow Chris to pursue photography as a career and share his passion with others.
‘[Taking photos again] will give me purpose and hopefully allow me to heal through a creative outlet. It will make me feel like a contributing member of society and give me something to focus on and work towards that is separate from my MS. I would also be able to bring the great outdoors into the lives of people whose conditions or disabilities mean that have lost the ability to explore and adventure.’ Chris says.
Lorraine loves making greeting cards, but the fatigue and problems with dexterity caused by her primary progressive MS have meant she was no longer able to operate her current equipment.
A new electronic die cutting machine would allow Lorraine to push a button have the machine cut the paper for her.
‘Everyone keeps asking why they haven’t received a handmade card from me in a while, it’s really sad to hear,’ Lorraine says.
‘I will now be able to make all my family and friends personalised birthday, Christmas and celebration cards that everyone has missed over the past two years. This would make a massive difference to my life as it would give me my self-worth and identity back and a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment in making and seeing my family and friends open my self-made greeting cards.’
A new laptop for Marg will mean she has quick, easy and reliable access to the world without worrying about her computer failing. Marg worked as an educational book editor for 30 years and writing and researching are a huge part of who she is.
‘I use my laptop to maintain contact with friends, family and medical specialists but the battery on my old computer has long since died.’
‘Since I cannot travel, even short distances within Tasmania, I want to be able to continue my research into primary progressive MS, which has been a major source of understanding and hope. Having a working laptop allows me to learn more about my PPMS, follow treatment trials and enables me to better communicate with my neurologist,’ Marg says.
‘I have always wanted to learn the cello. It is something that I consider a dream and a luxury. I play the violin, I would also love to play the cello to not only experience the joy and accomplishment of learning a new instrument but to receive the benefit of creating new Neural pathways by learning a new instrument.’
Zienna’s MS has impacted her ability to work and to participate in her life the way she would like to. Her Go for Gold Scholarship will mean a return to something she loves.
‘The scholarship will be used to buy an adult Cello, including case and bow. This was not something I could afford to do with the resources I have and it was relegated to a dream and a luxury.’
Morgan has been inspired by other people living with disabilities who model for the JAM the Label clothing line and other brands. As a husband and father of 3 young sons, Morgan’s dream is to earn enough through modelling to help his sons enjoy all their extracurricular activities.
‘My long-term goal is that if I work hard, do everything that is required of me, and become successful in this field, I will potentially be able to contribute more to the family budget,’ Morgan says.
‘I would love to model [for a company like JAM] or for other worthy and inclusive causes such as the NDIS, health matters, travel that targets people with disabilities and child education. Being a model would enable me to express myself through socialising, through the physical act of demonstrating the products and services I am modelling (especially if they aim to help people with disabilities), and through working in a creative, yet also technical environment.’
Morgan’s scholarship will mean he can afford to engage a professional photographer to help him create a portfolio, business cards and a website.
‘Earning extra money will mean that my family will be able to enjoy more of life than just the necessities of living from day to day. We would love all our sons to do karate, and potentially other activities like learning computer coding, chess and joining the Duke of Edinburgh program — all of which help to build character and help them prepare for future employment.’
As a textile artist, Vella understands just how therapeutic creating art can be.
‘Since learning to spin I have found many health benefits to help and manage my MS. The slow rhythmic movement of the double treadle is really beneficial as an exercise for my feet and lower legs, keeping movement and muscles working. It also helps with my fine motor skills as I use my fingers to pull, add and twist fibres and fabrics in to the yarn to create the textures I need. This also helps with concentration and connective function, while allowing me to stop and rest. ‘
The unique design of the Majacraft Aura Spinning Wheel means creators can stop and start the wheel at a slow speed if needed and is light and easily transportable.
‘Spinning on the "Aura" will allow me to use a spinning wheel that is less stress on muscles while maintaining a form of exercise, keep me socially active and connected with the artistic community.
‘Now I can achieve something worthwhile and keep some of my independence,’ Vella says.
After her MS diagnosis, Paula began seeing a psychologist — where she met a therapy dog on his very first day on the job. After adding a labradoodle puppy, Buddy, to her family almost a year ago, Paula now dreams of training Buddy to become a therapy dog who can come to work with her once she completes her Graduate Diploma of Psychology in February next year.
‘I currently work as a Support Worker for a company that provides day programs for adults with disabilities and I love it. Working as a canine therapy team, Buddy and I would love to continue this work on a part-time basis with participant group procedures tailored for us.
‘I also plan to register to work independently as a support worker and offer services including Animal-Assisted Therapy with Buddy. This may be out in the community, in a client's home, or in a multi-disciplinary office space with like-minded services.
‘Buddy is already an emotional support dog for me and a special presence in our family. To be able to spend more time with him and share his love with others would bring me even more joy. He loves people and thrives on learning. I'd love to be able to give him those things in an environment that benefits so many people,’ Paula says.
Passionate about her health and fitness, Benita found it difficult to maintain her usual exercise routine after an MS flare up left her with nerve pain in her leg and foot. As a single mum who works full time, Benita doesn’t have a lot of time to exercise outside the home and could no longer do high impact or weight bearing exercises, including the hiking that she loved.
‘[By purchasing a Your Reformer Pilates bed] I would be able to feel like my home is my sanctuary of self-care and give myself the much-needed respite while looking after the future health and wellbeing of my body,’ Benita says.
‘Achieving this dream means so much to me. It will alleviate the stress I have in not being able to engage in regular exercise due to fear of injury.
‘Exploring gentle exercise has inspired me to not let MS affect what I would like to achieve and has slowly built up some motivation for me to get back to the fit and healthy version of myself,’ Benita says.
Jo’s dream is to start a veggie garden in her backyard, along with her two daughters Ava and Anouk. The plan is to purchase raised garden beds with a self-watering system, to make it easy for Jo to tend to the plants. The beds would be installed once a small extension to the house is completed, allowing Jo easier access to the backyard.
‘Ava, Anouk and I have had a difficult few years. This year I feel that we have made some positive steps and am very proud to be able to make improvements to our house, will make a big difference for us all. Up until this point we have rarely used the backyard, other than to hang out the washing, empty the compost bin and other menial tasks.
‘I see the start of a vegetable garden as another positive stage in the journey to healing not only with MS but also with my children. I believe that it would allow for deeper bonds and connections to form with my children through spending time outdoors and caring for the vegetable garden,’ Jo says.
In 2006, Christine wrote a silly story for one of her best friends, Stacey, after Stacey's best furfriend passed away. Due to life getting busy, Christine relocating from the US to Australia and Stacey getting very sick, Christine was never able to show the story to her friend. Stacey, a type 1 diabetic, passed away in 2011 from complications after a kidney transplant.
Over the next decade, Christine toyed around with the idea of creating a children's book from this silly story. it wasn't until late 2011 that she decided to face her fears and try to self-publish. Christine successfully funded a kick-starter for her children's book, Stacey and Toby: The Very Odd Day, in February this year to cover illustrating and formatting expenses, with a plan to make this the first in a series of children’s books highlighting life as a child with an invisible disease.
Stacey and Toby: The Very Odd Day tells the story of an incredible little girl named Stacey, who has a wild imagination and a four-legged best friend named Toby. The book is about the adventures of a bright, tough girl who just happens to have an invisible disability – type 1 diabetes.
‘Since being diagnosed with my own invisible disease and connecting with the community, I've come to realise just how many of us there are, but so little representation in children's books,’ Christine says.
Christine will use her scholarship funds to illustrate and market the second book in her series.
‘To create more empathy in the world, in support of people with disabilities, would be amazing. By bringing it to children through a beautifully funny story, I could help make the world a slightly better place.’
Having an easily accessible raised garden bed, where Kelly can grow fresh fruit, veggies and herbs with her three young sons would be a dream come true.
‘I have a lot of mobility problems and need a patch that is easy for me to access, plant, weed and water the vegetables, without help from anybody. It will be my own oasis. Being able to do this myself, without relying on anybody, will provide me with great satisfaction and be therapeutic for my mental and physical health,’ Kelly says.
‘It will make a huge difference to my life, especially in summer, when the weather is warm outside. I will wake up in the morning open the blinds and see my vegetable garden and be motivated to go outside. Unlike now where I spend most of my time inside.’
Shelly is a farm girl at heart, who grew up endlessly riding horses. As an adult, Shelly spent 10 years working in remote Queensland and Western Australia in ecotourism where, among other things, she worked as a horse-riding guide. However, with kids, a busy job and hectic schedule, Shelly soon stopped having the time to enjoy many of her favourite past times and hasn’t ridden for the past 14 years.
‘I loved the freedom and the exhilaration of riding but it was the intense bond that a rider develops with the horse that gave me a profound sense of wellbeing.’ Shelly says.
After being diagnosed with MS in 2021, Shelly began reassessing her life and the things that were important to her.
‘I read and read and read about MS and took it all in to get an understanding of what my future may look like, to work out what was important in life and to focus on what I could control. I identified what brings me joy and meaning in life. The connection to animals and horses is right up there.
‘The opportunity to apply for the scholarship made me really think what I would love the most and what would bring me meaning,’ Shelly says.
Shelly will now be able to enroll in guided horse rides on a farm close to her house, a total of one ride a month for 13 months.
‘Being the mother of two strong, independent and clever girls, I want to lead by example, by showing it is important for women and mothers to follow their dreams and live their passions.’
A passionate horse rider since she was 3 years old. After being diagnosed with MS at 17, Zoe changed her plans and set her sights on the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.
‘My goal is to represent Australia…and I’m on my way there but like any sporting journey, particularly where horses are involved, I need financial assistance to reach my goals,’ Zoe says.
Scholarship funds can now help Zoe to pay for 20 additional coaching sessions in the lead up to qualifying events.
‘Ever since I was diagnosed, I have tried to live by the rule of “do everything while you can”. I encourage everyone around me to go for their goals, to go on that holiday, take the risk, do what makes you happy. I’d like to show others that anything is possible.’
‘I want to work towards a beautiful balance in my life, which will improve my personal relationships, my work life and most importantly my head space’
Kirsten dreams of being strong and balanced physically and mentally and wants to join weekly Pilates and yoga classes. However, needing to cut back on work hours and a recent rent increase meant she could no longer afford to fulfill her dream alone.
‘I want to love the skin I’m in, something I’ve been battling with since my diagnosis. I dream of being strong and flexible and do what I can at home but it’s nothing on what I would get out of physical classes,’ Kirsten says.
‘I want to be a beautiful strong warrior — the absolute best version of myself.’
Before her MS diagnosis, Loz was going to the gym twice a day, every day. It soon became difficult for Loz to get there, as she is unable drive or take public transport. Nevertheless, Loz refused to cancel her membership and held on to her dream of getting back into her fitness routine, which gave her so much joy.
‘I want to create a home gym that I can safely and easily use. I know with a little help I can not only achieve my goals but exceed them. I'm aiming for the treetops and pushing even further. Fitness is my mental escape, stress relief and overall happy place. Having the opportunity to take that up again will be life changing,’ Loz says.
With her scholarship funds, Loz will now be able to buy a stationary bike, hand weights, weighted rope, massage gun and resistance bands to help her keep fit at home.
‘I'll continue to show the world nothing will take away my love and joy for being the healthiest version of myself I can be.’