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Brenda and Peter Fathers, chair and fundraising officer for MS Swale, were recognised and celebrated this month as one of the unsung heroes of Swale for their outstanding commitment to people in the area affected by MS.   

Every year, Swale Borough Council asks the public to nominate residents who work tirelessly to better their communities, with the mayor and judging panel honouring them with a Mayor’s Civic Award.    Brenda and Peter were jointly awarded a Mayor’s Civic Award which commends their efforts to make Swale a better place for those with MS.

Husband and wife team Brenda and Peter Fathers work have worked tirelessly their entire lives to help others. Brenda helped form Multiple sclerosis (MS) Swale whilst Peter works as the fund-raising officer. Brenda is the chair of the group and the lynch pin holding it together. She works tirelessly to support the members either on the phone or face to face. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, she is there helping you through. Her priority is the wellbeing of all the members. She has also become an expert at sourcing grants to fund the needs of their members.

Despite suffering from health issues of his own, Peter realised that, like him, MS members might enjoy playing bowls at Swale Indoor Bowls Club. A trial session soon became a regular weekly event with numbers growing from two or three to become what it is now, a thriving para-bowls group of around 20 members.  

It soon became apparent that the bowls club wheelchairs were not ideal as they were heavy and needed someone to push the bowler. After some research with other clubs, specialist disability wheelchairs that enabled members to move themselves were identified, sourced and purchased using grants and funds raised by MS Swale. MS Swale now has seven specialist wheelchairs which are in regular use at the Para-bowls club, which is open to anyone with a neurological disability. The specialist wheelchairs supplied by MS Swale are freely available at bowls club for others to use, benefiting the community.

Some members now travel to take part in Disability Bowls England events. They participate in bowls leagues and also represent the Swale Indoor Bowls Club in friendly matches against other clubs, selected on an equal basis to able bodied members, proving that disability is no barrier to participation.

In September 2023, Peter organised a bowls tournament for disabled bowlers from across the South East. Bowlers with disabilities including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons, Stroke, Blindness, Deafness and none-verbal people, amputees, and spinal injuries. The event was so successful that another event is planned for September 2024.

MS Swale encourages its members to participate in sport to help their mental and physical health. As well as bowls, members also participate in archery, chair yoga and personal training sessions. Regular support meetings and social events are also part of the calendar. Their physiology is “We can do it” – we don’t look back we look forward. 

“From small beginnings, MS Swale is now a thriving, local based, registered charity supporting its members. Brenda is MS Swale, without her at the helm, the group would not be so successful. Without Peter there would be no para-bowls club or South East Bowls Tournament. None of the amazing achievements would be possible without husband and wife team, Brenda and Peter Fathers.”

Caption: Members of the MS Swale para bowls group, with members of Swale Indoor Bowls Club who were assisting at a session