White River comes together to support community member living with multiple sclerosis
The community of White River recently joined hands to support Louis Leonard who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) six years ago.
Louis was only 29 years old when he was diagnosed.
MS is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). The immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibres and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerve fibres.
A fundraising event was held on 19 August at the Barnyard at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre outside White River to help the Leonard family with medical bills and other living expenses. Louis and his wife, Lize, have two little boys, Louis and Logan. Lize is the owner of Little Miracles Photography, a photographic studio specialising in newborn and family photography.
Approximately 75 people attended the event.
Larissa Mulder-Barnett, a friend of the family, organised the event.
“We want to express our sincerest gratitude to Larissa for the incredible act of kindness and selflessness she has shown by foregoing her 40th birthday party to organise a fundraiser for our family. Her decision has touched our hearts in a way that words cannot fully capture. Her willingness to redirect such a significant personal celebration towards our family is a testament to her compassion, empathy, and genuine care. Her decision has not only raised awareness for our family’s situation, but has also showcased the power of community and the impact that one person’s generosity can have on many lives,” Lize said when she thanked Larissa on Facebook.
Louis and Lize thanked all the sponsors who played a role in the success of the fundraiser, as well as those who attended the event.
“We also want to express our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who was unable to attend, but generously contributed towards our fundraiser. Your absence at the event in no way diminishes the impact you have made, and we want you to know how truly grateful we are for your contributions,” they said.
The guest speaker of the evening was Gerrie Hadders, an MS sufferer who wrote a book, Just Keep S’myelin, about his journey with MS.
“If my story can touch only one person’s life, all the suffering will be worthwhile to me,” he said. “People do not necessarily view diseases and illnesses in an objective manner, and I hope that my words can change their views.”
Gerrie shared intimate details about his upbringing and life, as well as some of his wisdom with sufferers, loved ones and caregivers.
As a result of his condition, Louis had to give up his full-time job.
But, he says, he is not someone who gives up easily.
Louis has started a home business, Buckets of Blessings, and for R50 you can buy a bucket with a ciabatta mix that you can bake at home yourself. For R30, you can buy a refill for your bucket.
“The recipe I use is an old family recipe which my uncle gifted to me as he owned The Hatfield Bakery in Pretoria. I do all the packaging myself,” he says.
Louis says living with MS is not always easy and he does not always know what the next day will have in store for him.
“There is no way to predict how I will feel when I wake up in the morning. But I remain positive and I make proper use of the times that I am well,” he says.
He says his family, especially his wife, is the pillar of strength that keeps him going.
“I have the best wife in the world,” he says.
A Back-a-Buddy page has also been created to help the Leonard family.