Kerri Bland remembers when Wagga children eagerly hit the books for a special cause.
The Wagga woman shared her disappointment amid a decline in MS Readathon supporters.
Mrs Bland said children of all ages had once run at teachers to fill registration forms and jump on board Australia’s month-long reading challenge.
She knew this because she had been invited to share her personal story about life with Multiple Sclerosis at schools across the city.
“I used to ask the kiddies if they knew someone with MS and I’d see a dozen or so hands in the air,” Mrs Bland said. “I would say: ‘Well if you didn’t before, you’ve met me now’.”
For 20 years, the 57-year-old has endured the symptoms of a degenerative auto-immune disorder.
Mrs Bland’s body attacks the protective lining of her nerves, leaving her with pain and numbness, as well as vision, breathing, cognitive and bladder problems.
Young students across Wagga would throw themselves into the pages of adventures in this world and others, raising money to support residents, like Mrs Bland, with equipment aids and home modifications.
She said researchers were also being funded to discover the cause and a cure of MS.
It used to be great.Kerri Bland
The Readathon rules have always been simple: Read as many books as possible within the month of August, collect donations and receive prizes for your efforts.
Mrs Bland said about 1000 residents across the region were currently living with the disease, and every dollar the charity received made a difference.
But Mrs Bland – Wagga Multiple Sclerosis Group member – said since the loss of Wagga’s dedicated MS community nurses, the annual school visits had also ceased. She said Readathon participation had also “dropped off”.
This year, North Wagga Public School was the city’s only registration for the “new fundraiser”. According to the initiative’s website, money will be toward family camps for children, with MS-diagnosed parents.
“We never got told how used to be raised locally, but nationally it would have been more than $1 million, easy,” Mrs Bland said. “We haven’t heard anything from Sydney about sending start-up kits like we used to.”
She said the lack of awareness or lack of interest was disappointing.
“It used to be great,” Mrs Bland said. “You knew in the end the donations were going to help and the kiddies were learning more as well.”