Rachel Lyons tells us why she chose Ataxia UK as her charity of the year, helping the South West Branch to fundraise nearly £20,000 which has gone towards this campaign.

 Upon winning the Exeter Lord Mayoral election in 2013, I knew I had to nominate a charity to which I'd lend my support. The decision was a very personal one; although I’ve had breast cancer, my son has type 1 diabetes and my sister has coeliac disease, I felt all of these conditions are well-known and receive a lot of national publicity. 

I had been touched by the experience of Rebecca Libby, the granddaughter of my deceased partner, who has played a large part in this campaign. When Beka and her family moved to Dartmoor she was a fun and lively seven year old, but by age 12 was in a wheelchair due to her ataxia.

Even as a retired nurse I knew little of the condition and saw this as an opportunity to raise the profile of ataxia, helping people like Beka in the process. With the family’s blessing I contacted Ataxia UK and was put in touch with the Exeter Branch. 

Throughout my mayoral year we raised money with quizzes, coffee-mornings, meals and many other events, all raising the awareness and public understanding of ataxia, including a concert sponsored by the Lions Club.

Now, four years on, it is time to shout about ataxia again to remind not only the residents of Exeter and Devon what everyday problems can occur for people with ataxia, but also to make healthcare professionals more aware of the signs and symptoms of the condition. 

Thank you for your support in this campaign.

Rachel C Lyons   Lord Mayor of Exeter 2013-14