I would like to start this blog by saying a big thank you to the Muscle Help Foundation and Michael McGrath for giving me this brilliant opportunity.
If you know me well, you will know I love practically all sports and try to get involved as much as possible so when I heard there was a chance for me to volunteer with the Muscle Help Foundation for the rugby dream programme, I charged at it!
Michael picked me up on Friday morning, along with another first time volunteer, Jasmine, the photographer. It was a great chance for us all to get to know each other a little bit better and prepare ourselves for what we will be doing. Once we arrived at the Marriott Twickenham we were joined by two long term volunteers, Sarah and Steve, where we were briefed and ready for action.
All the young men we were hosting had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and I had the opportunity to host Phil and his dad Andy. Safe to say I have never laughed so much in my life, their relationship was beautiful, and very tongue in cheek. It sounds like a cliché to say this, but the way Phil handles his muscular dystrophy is inspiring.
First stop of the day photos with the bronze statue outside the hotel which was on the south side of the iconic Twickenham Stadium. Everyone looked fabulous doing the muscle warrior salute and sounded even better when chanting “What are we? MUSCLE WARRIORS!”. It caught the eye of the public that’s for sure.
We then headed over to the rugby store where the young men were surprised with the opportunity to spend £50 on whatever they liked. Some got coats and hats while others bought memorabilia. After that is was time to chill and unwind before dinner.
You do not go hungry when volunteering for the Muscle Help Foundation!
We were now joined by Michael’s son-in-law Jake. The dinner was delightful and everyone was very satisfied. Dinner was also a great chance to get to know the three families even better – we bonded over Spurs, music, films and what we like to get up to in our day-to-day lives. And as we got to hear their nominations, a couple of tears may have appeared in my eyes after hearing the beautiful poems they had written.
After a lovely long sleep I woke up to the sound of someone knocking on my door – it was my FIRST ever room service. It was amazing! Then it was time to get ready for the big day.
We all met in the host room where we got a little surprise from the sniffer dog team. They came in and spoke to us about the checks that take place and how they train the dogs. They’d brought 16 week old puppy Sam with them; he took a liking to the guys and wouldn’t stop licking them.
Once they left, it was time for the men to wrap up nice and snug, they then headed out in the blistering wind and snow for the stadium. I stayed at the hotel and watched the game there, but the photos being sent to us from all those in the stadium made me feel like I was with them. They even got to meet Davina McCall and Joe Wicks (The Body Coach). Even though England didn’t win, all the guys came back having had an extraordinary time, albeit very cold.
More room service was then ordered to warm everyone up with some lovely soft tacos while we talked about the game and highlights. Once the roads had reopened, it was time for everyone to head home which was a little bit sad as it seemed like it was all over very quickly.
The two days really opened my eyes. I learnt a lot about muscular dystrophy and what the families have to do every single day in order to make sure everyone is happy at all times and how they cope.
The experience was amazing, I was looked after so well and so grateful for the two long term volunteers and Michael’s son-in-law Jake who made me feel comfortable and ready for action. It was a pleasure to meet the families and to get to know them, I will be keeping my eyes peeled to see what they all get up to in the future.
If you’re thinking about volunteering I would say without a doubt the Muscle Help Foundation is a great place to start. Everything about the programme was well organised and you were supported the whole way through it. The young men had a brilliant time and so did I.
Interested? Find out what to expect and see the experiences available! If you would like to help in another way you could donate £6.57 as Muscle Help is all about the #Powerof657. 657 is the number of muscles in a human body; it is also the number of dreams the charity would love to achieve, so every penny does really help.
Once again thank you to the Muscle Help Foundation for giving me this amazing experience and to Jack, John, Phil and their families for being so lovely and making the whole weekend perfect. I can’t wait to volunteer again in the future.