THE FUTURE of Cornwall's only centre for people with multiple sclerosis is looking brighter after kind-hearted Cornish Guardian readers helped raise an impressive £22,000 in 2013 to keep it running.
In April this year, this paper launched a campaign to save the Merlin MS Centre in St Austell after the charity announced it could be forced to close due to increasing financial pressures.
And since then Merlin supporters and kind-hearted readers have been digging deep to help the charity, which has to raise £300,000 a year to meet its costs.
But it needs readers' continuing help to continue providing lifeline services to MS sufferers from across the county.
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"The appeal in the Cornish Guardian really helped raise our profile and as a result we gained lots of support from various groups and organisations that in total raised nearly £23,000," said Ellie May, marketing and communications manager at Merlin.
"Everyone at Merlin MS Centre would like to say a huge thank you for all the amazing support from Cornish Guardian readers in 2013.
"Although not out of the woods yet, it has meant that we are able to go into 2014 in a much more secure position. We hope to have your continued support in this coming year," she added.
Throughout the year, fundraisers ran, cycled, walked and kayaked hundreds of miles to raise thousands of pounds for the centre and community groups and organisations from across Cornwall rallied together in response to the cry for help.
But now the centre, which receives no government funding and relies on the hire of its conference and therapy rooms as well as grants and donations, is facing continuing financial pressure as demand for the lifeline service continues to grow.
More than 1,000 people in the county suffer from MS, an incurable chronic condition affecting the central nervous system, which is double the national average.
"Yearly the amount of people that the charity helps increases with more people either being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or hearing about the work of the centre," Mrs May explained.
"With an increase in demand comes an increase on resources. Merlin is always looking for organisations that are able to help support the charity," she added.
Zena O'Rourke, editor of the Cornish Guardian, said: "The Merlin Centre provides an invaluable service to the county's MS sufferers and we are proud to support their work. Cornish Guardian readers have given extremely generously in 2013 and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to support this appeal.
"We would also urge people to keep giving in 2014 to ensure this vital service continues."