MS Ireland’s MS Readathon 2020

After 33 years MS Ireland’s READaTHON is at risk due to COVID-19 and its effects on fundraising activities in 2020, but the charity are hoping with their new interactive website,

Families and schools around the country will sign up and save Ireland’s oldest fundraising event during this difficult year. With MS Ireland expecting a decrease of fundraised income of over €1 million this year, the charity and the thousands of people they support around the country are depending on their flagship event more than ever to continue to provide the same level of service next year.

Multiple Sclerosis Ireland is pleased to announce that the MS READaTHON will take place this year, beginning on November 1st and lasting the full month of November. This year MS Ireland will be launching a brand new interactive website as the READaTHON will be going virtual for the first time in its 33 year history. The site is now live at

Thousands of readers young and old will take part in raising awareness and vital funds to support the 9,000 people living with MS, the most common debilitating neurological condition affecting young adults in Ireland.

The MS READaTHON is Ireland’s biggest sponsored reading initiative when young readers raise funds for vital services to help people living with Multiple Sclerosis in local communities. The campaign is MS Ireland’s oldest and most anticipated event each year, originally launched by Roald Dahl in 1988 and has grown ever since. This year the campaign takes on new importance for MS Ireland, due to the economic impact of COVID-19 fundraised income is expected to be down 38% on previous years. Traditionally, the campaign has been popular amongst the schoolchildren of Ireland, but this year MS Ireland is encouraging ‘grown up’ readers to take part and get their offices, clubs and families to rediscover their love of reading.

Ava Battles, Chief Executive of MS Ireland said, “We are delighted that the MS READaTHON will go ahead again this year, its 33rd year. Young readers, parents, teachers and schools have continued to support the MS community, reading and raising funds to help people living with MS and their families. This is greatly appreciated and as each annual MS READaTHON comes around, we want to acknowledge their efforts and we look forward readers young and old rediscovering their love of reading. The MS READaTHON is our biggest fundraising campaign and we simply cannot keep our services running without it. This year, it takes on a whole new level of importance as we hope to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and expected fundraising losses of over €1 million.

This year is different for everyone as we adjust to our ‘new normal’.  We’ve all had to adapt to our new reality and change how we live, socialise and work, however, out of adversity is born innovation. This year MS Ireland is embracing the challenges that face us by making the READaTHON a Virtual campaign where we will be launching a new interactive website that we hope will be a tremendous success”

Olivia Kirwan, 41, County Dublin, has been living with MS the past 11 years and is the ambassador for this year’s MS READaTHON. “My initial diagnosis of MS was Halloween 2008 after presenting to A&E with Optic Neuritis. I had had MRI scans and bloods done and even with just those tests, it was confirmed I had MS.  It was January 2009, after a lumbar puncture, when I got the full diagnosis; you need to have more than one episode to have the “Mulitple” Sclerosis diagnosis.

During lockdown, I was quite anxious, needed to know if I could do the shopping for our family as getting deliveries are proving difficult, I rang MS Ireland’s helpline, they were great, advised me as to risks, the best way for me to do things to protect myself while out and a nice chat that really calmed my nerves over it all. With the READaTHON coming up my children are now 12, 11 and 11 and really looking forward to the reading time together, we set a time to sit down for an hour each day and read our books and relax. The twins love audiobooks at night too to fall asleep to. We’ll go through the books we have here and chat with friends that are taking part and see if we can do books swaps or recommendations for each other”


While the MS READaTHON is set to be different from previous years, the concept hasn’t changed. Students read whatever they like, as much as they can for 4 weeks from Nov 1st – 30th Nov. On our new website, readers can earn virtual Reward Badges and Stars for the goals they achieve, they can build their avatars, share their campaign on social media and rate and review the books they read. Our new MS READaTHON website is designed to enrich a school’s reading culture without taking away from teachers precious time. We are delighted to launch our brand new, interactive website packed full of amazing features that we think students will love. For more see website

Now, more than ever the MS community need support and advice.  Funds raised by readers around the country directly support vital services, for example, the MS Ireland Information Line, enabling one-to-one support for those newly diagnosed, physiotherapy and exercise classes to help people with MS remain independent, and respite care. Learn more at


By bringing our READaTHON online we are addressing a number of issues:

-Less physical touchpoints. We spoke to teachers, we spoke to parents and one major concern was that they didn’t feel comfortable with how many physical pieces of sponsorship kit there has been traditionally. We’re doing away with sponsorship cards, all sponsorship is now online.

-Teacher’s time constraints. Now it’s simply a matter of registering the school and class on our new website, sending a link to the parents and that’s it! No collecting funds, no collating forms, no missing donations, no lodging funds.

-Environmental concerns. Traditionally the MS READaTHON has been quite paper heavy. To give you an idea, in 2019 we sent out 45,000 sponsorship packs. Bringing it all online completely does away with this

About MS

Multiple Sclerosis – meaning ‘many scars’-  the most common debilitating neurological condition affecting young adults in Ireland. It affects the motor, sensory and cognitive functioning of the body and is usually diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age. The impact of MS on individuals, their families and the community can undermine the resilience that is needed for individuals to remain purposeful and in control of their lives. Three times more women than men are diagnosed with MS. There is no cause or cure.

Among other services, MS Ireland uses the funds raised to provide vital services that reduce the impact of MS including physiotherapy, general support services, and newly diagnosed seminars.

About MS Ireland

MS Ireland is the national organisation providing information, vital services and support to the MS community. We provide a wide range of specialised services and resources on a national, regional and local level. Services include; Regional Community Worker programmes for one-to-one support; physiotherapy; symptom management courses; newly diagnosed sessions and the MS Information Line, one of the first services used in the time leading up to or following a diagnosis. We also provide the only national respite and therapy centre for people with MS in Ireland.

More than two-thirds of the 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland access these resources. All those affected by the condition rely on MS Ireland to advocate on their behalf on any issues which will impact their quality of life.

Members of the public with any queries relating to MS are invited to call the MS Information Line 1850 233 233. Open Monday- Friday 10am- 2pm. Calls are strictly confidential.

For more information contact Thomas McCarthy at MS Ireland on or (01) 678 1604 or on mobile 086 0498046. For more on Multiple Sclerosis visit

Please note: members of the public with any queries relating to MS are invited to call the MS Information Line 1850 233 233 which is available Monday- Friday 10am- 5pm. All calls are strictly confidential.

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