A Lancashire man who was suddenly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis which has robbed him of his ability to do the sporting activities he loves has launched a “Balls to MS” campaign and has amassed a collection of sporting memorabilia which he is planning to auction to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. He tells AASMA DAY his story
Kevin Shurmer has always loved sports and activities and enjoyed playing football, golf, running and going walking in the Lake District.
When he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Kevin admits he thought his life was over.
Kevin, 50, who lives in Croston, near Preston, who is married to Samantha and has a 26-year-old stepson, was diagnosed with MS in 2006.
Kevin, who is a software test analyst at Utiligroup in Euxton, near Chorley, recalls: “It started off as a bit of numbness and tingling in my hands.
“It was permanently there but there were different degrees of severity and it was worse some days than others.
“Luckily, I was working for AXA at the time and had private healthcare and I went to see a doctor who referred me for lots of tests and I was told I had MS.
“At that point, I knew nothing about MS and I thought my life was over.
“Just before my diagnosis, the numbness had started in my feet as well and crept to chest level.
“That stayed for a couple of months. It did not affect me doing anything but it felt a bit strange.”
For the first few years after diagnosis, Kevin says the MS did not really affect him and he thought he would be able to live with it and still do all he wanted to do.
However, one day, he was running on the treadmill and his foot caught and it started happening time and time again.
Kevin explains: “It was a bit like stubbing your toe and stumbling. Eventually, I had to stop running.”
About 2011, the MS robbed Kevin of being able to do the activities he loved such as football, golf and hiking and he began using a stick and elbow crutch.
Kevin says: “I am now using my elbow crutch all the time.
“My balance is unsteady and I am struggling with things like putting my socks on because I am stiff and can’t bend.
“I cannot walk very far now without getting fatigue.
“I have to have a sleep most lunchtimes and have naps and I go to bed quite early.
“I am fortunate that I can still work because I do a sit-down job.”
Despite his MS causing an obstacle to Kevin taking part in sports, he was determined to raise money for the cause by other means.
It was after he was given a rugby ball signed by the Wales Rugby Union that the idea of auctioning this item off to help raise money for MS through “Balls To MS” was born.
In Kevin’s own words: “I may not be able to climb mountains or swim channels but I can collect balls.”
Kevin has now managed to collect between 40 and 50 items of sports memorabilia to date – everything from a Champions League Final ball signed by Gareth Bale to a Rugby League ball signed by Wigan Warriors.
The latest addition to his collection came from his very own boss, the CEO of Utiligroup, a leading provider of software solutions and services to the energy and utilities industry.
CEO Matt Hirst happily donated a signed Mike Tyson boxing glove he acquired after attending an evening with Mike Tyson in Las Vegas.
After Matt heard about Kevin’s diagnosis and the “Balls To MS” campaign, he was keen to help.
He says: “This cause is very close to my heart as a family member is affected by MS.
“It is magnificent what Kev is doing and we are delighted to support him at Utiligroup”.
Kevin’s collection of balls and sporting memorabilia is growing and he has big ambitions for his “Balls To MS” campaign.
Kevin hopes to host a black tie fund-raising event in October at Whites in Bolton where he will auction off the various sports memorabilia and he is hoping to start the online auction around April.
The money raised will be donated to the MS Society who carry out research into treatments against the disease and help sufferers and their family with care and support.
• To find out more about Kevin’s “Balls To MS” campaign, follow him on Facebook and Twitter by searching ‘Balls To MS.’
l Around 100,000 people in the UK have MS. Most get diagnosed between the ages of 20 and their late 60s.
l Once diagnosed, MS stays with you for life, but treatments and specialists can help you to manage the condition and its symptoms.
l MS is a neurological condition. That means it affects your nerves. It is caused when your immune system isn’t working properly.
l Symptoms might include fatigue, vision problems or difficulties with walking, but MS is different for everyone.
l For more information, visit: www.mssociety.org.uk