MND Association fundraiser follows in Elton’s footsteps

Helen, Vicky, Sam and Madeleine
Sam Ward with her fundraising inspiration, Vicky Round, friend Helen Ball (Vicky’s daughter) and Helen’s daughter Madeleine

This year’s Christmas adverts feature cute children in panto, glamorous tv presenter Holly Willoughby, global superstar Elton John…and the MND Association’s very own Sam Ward!

Super fundraiser Sam found herself unwittingly starring in the festive campaign for online retailer in recognition of her money-spinning efforts on behalf of the charity.

The 34-year-old from Manchester launched her fundraising efforts earlier this year inspired by her friend Helen Ball’s Mum, Vicky Round. Former nurse Vicky was diagnosed with motor neurone disease more than two years ago.

She said:

“Vicky and Helen were a big help to me when my mum died when I was 18 – Vicky trained to be a nurse with Mum. Helen’s been there every single day since and I decided I wanted to do something to say thank you. I’d been running to keep fit but I decided to step that up and pledged to run the Manchester half marathon to raise money.”

Sam’s challenge raised £500 and inspired a friend to nominate her for a very special surprise.

Sam said:

“The first I knew was a call from a video company. They said they were doing some filming and would I come along and run in the background. I was pretty laid back about it all but they insisted on sending a taxi to pick me up and meeting me beforehand to brief me – it seemed a bit odd but I thought maybe there was some big celebrity appearing in the video.”

In fact, it was all a ruse to get Sam in front of the camera – as the ‘star’.

She said:

“We were filming and it took a while and I thought maybe I should call my husband David to ask him to pick our son Zack up from nursery – then David walked in with the actress Gemma Atkinson!”

The film was actually being made on behalf of online retailer as part of their festive ‘Love Giving’ campaign to include television adverts, appearances in newspapers and magazines and of course social media.

Sam, who’s a Senior Product Manager with BT, said:

“I had no idea at all, it was such a surprise although David had known all about it. Apparently he’d warned Gemma I might not know who she was because I’m hopeless at recognising people but thankfully I did and she was really nice!

“The whole thing was such a surprise. As Gemma and I chatted I realised we’d both lost parents at a young age. Then it started to sink in that this had all come about because of my fundraising for Vicky and I got quite emotional.”

Sam and David with Gemma Atkinson
Super fundraiser Sam Ward and husband David meet Gemma Atkinson

As a thank you for her incredible efforts on behalf of the MND Association, Sam was presented with a personal training programme working with Gemma Atkinson’s own personal trainer Steve Chambers by The campaign is focused on ‘finding the gift that helps you find your gift’ – so Sam’s training sessions will be aimed at helping her prepare for her next endeavour, the Manchester marathon at the beginning of April. also kicked off Sam’s fundraising by donating £5,000 to the MND Association on Sam’s behalf.

Find out more about Sam’s story and support her efforts at her JustGiving page.

Samantha’s story will be shown on ITV, online and across social media channels from November 24 until Christmas. You can watch the advert below:

For further information and support contact our MND Connect helpline

mndconnect 0808 802 6262