by Tony Flood
Sixty-four-year-old Eastbourne resident Tina Whitmore is one of the bravest and most dedicated women I’ve ever met – an inspiration to everyone..
Tina’s rheumatoid arthritis has become so bad that she cannot walk without pain because the discs have slipped in her back and neck, but she spends much of her life helping fellow sufferers by running R.A.S.C.A.L.S., which stands for Rheumatoid Arthritis Social Club and Leisure Society.
The self-help group, which is celebrating its 30th year, having been founded in 1993, has helped many hundreds of people from across East Sussex who suffer from RA, osteoarthritis or associated diseases such as lupus and fibromyalgia.
RASCALS organise regular outings and meetings in St Wilfrid’s Church Hall in Pevensey Bay, where they also hold fund-raising fetes and auctions offering high quality items which have been donated to them.
Tina says: “I have a wonderful band of helpers on our committee and my husband Richard is ‘the muscle’, doing so many things I can’t manage. I had both my knees and a hip replaced 22 years ago so they will need doing again soon, as will my other hip and my shoulders. Some times I have to stay in bed as I can’t move, especially in the days after a RASCALS meeting or fundraiser. On those days Richard has to do everything for me. He’s an angel.”
RASCALS, who currently have around 85 members, received a community award from the Eastbourne Herald in 2014.
They are not a charity but donate to various charities and pay to give support to their own members.
Tina reveals: “Rich and I put quite a lot of our own money into the group, but we love it. We get donated lots of lovely things from our large circle of family and friends to sell off cheaply. We spend hours collecting, cleaning and mending things before selling them. All money raised is spent on our members.”
Richard, aged 71, adds: “We use the money we raise for the hire of the church hall, insurance, speakers, games and refreshments, music prizes, days and meals out, hydrotherapy, ‘get well’ presents etc. We have the use of the hydrotherapy pool at a cheaper rate but only members who come to at least four meetings a year are eligible to this.”
Tina explains: “ Some of our members only have RASCALS in their lives – that is why I continue to run it even though my R/A is getting progressively worse and the pain is relentless.
“I joined in 2003, was secretary from 2004 till 2013 and have been chairman since then. We are not medically trained but we discuss our ailments and medication between ourselves. It’s a great comfort to talk to others who are in the same pain or scared of what is to come in the future.
“Many lifetime friends are made. RASCALS is like an extension of our family now and we will continue until we are unable to, or the members don’t need us!”
More details about RASCALS, including joining the group or donating items which Richard can collect, are available by emailing Tina at: firstname.lastname@example.org