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Laura Way's quest to raise awareness about fibromyalgia

Laura has organised two successful fibromyalgia awareness events in her local community. Here Laura shares her story and how to organise a fun and a successful fibromyalgia awareness stall: ''The first time I heard of Fibromyalgia was when my mum received her diagnosis in 2004. The second time I heard of Fibromyalgia was when I received my own diagnosis in 2011. It was only then that I truly understood the full implications and debilitating nature of this illness. Ever since then I’ve wanted to do something to raise awareness about this condition, so when one of our local churches advertised for participants to help hold a summer fete in June last year I asked for a table.

With the help of my mum, sister and girlfriend we spent the weeks leading up to the event making preparations: procuring items to sell (we went for a butterfly theme, given its symbolism within the Fibromyalgia community), obtaining leaflets and posters from FMAUK, and promoting our involvement in the fete and our aims via word of mouth and social media.

The day of the fete was a typical Welsh summer day – misty and wet – so the fete was moved into the small church hall. Despite the lower turnout of people – the weather was a bit of a deterrent – we had constant interest through the afternoon; some from people who have Fibromyalgia, some who knew someone with the illness, and others who had never heard of it and wanted to know more. Not only was it a great way to share experiences with this illness or inform others about this illness, but we got to raise money for and awareness of FMAUK.

Just before Christmas the church asked if we wanted to join in with their Christmas fete and we jumped at the chance. Along with using the butterfly-themed stock we had left over from the summer fete, we also wanted something a bit Christmassy: we decorated some wooden craft boxes and also purchased some Christmas-themed cardboard gift boxes and filled them with sweets and small gifts, such as you would find in a goody-bag at a child’s party. These were especially popular and we found that demand was greater than my small supply! We’re now keeping this in mind should we get involved in another fete!

Alongside these two events we ran an awareness campaign through the sale of awareness wristbands – we promoted this to our family, friends and neighbours (who in turn told their family and friends) and our local newsagent and his wife kindly allowed us to have a collection box and stock of bands in their shop to sell to the wider community.

All monies raised from the wristbands was added to that from the fetes and we raised £190.00 in total for FMAUK.

If anyone reading this is thinking of doing something similar but is unsure, I’d tell them to just go for it! My advice would be don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help or to get involved. If you are in need of some ideas for what to sell think about the sort of things you would like to see and buy at such an event, as well as the type of people likely to attend such an event and their age ranges; visit local fetes, fayres or even car boot sales to get some ideas; if you are a crafty sort of individual think about making and selling some items of your own; ask family and friends for any unwanted, good condition items that they don’t want or use that you can then sell for a donation; use the internet (EBay, for example) to find low-cost items in bulk or wholesale that you can sell for a donation. Don’t worry about how much or how little you make – everyone has to start somewhere and every penny made is a penny towards raising awareness for this challenging illness.

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