Dawn Banton is 38 years old and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 3 years ago. Her Dad has had MS for almost 30 years so in a sense Dawn has always lived with the illness. When she woke up one morning and couldn’t see out of her left eye nor feel the whole left side of her body due to severe numbness, she knew in a sense that she too could possibly have MS, which sadly turned out to be true. She couldn't believe the odds.

At first Dawn tried to continue walking around un-aided, but after several wobbles and falls during a bad relapse, a friend talked her into using a stick which made her feel very uncomfortable in public: “There is a lot of stigma surrounding young people using a stick. Unless you have a sticker on your forehead that says “I have MS” people don’t understand why you need one - because you are young”. Dawn decided to paint and customize her sticks to match her outfits and handbags, and she was inspired by the positive attention they received. She started to decorate mobility aids for other members of her support group, and experimented selling them on eBay. After a lot of hard work and long hours perfecting her techniques Dawn turned it into her very successful, and fast growing business Blingsticks.

Blingsticks offer a wide range of walking sticks and crutches to suit all tastes: Dawn designs “football themed” Blingsticks, “hen night” Blingsticks, posh glitzy “dinner dance” Blingsticks, and many more! She used to be a professional singer and performer and her Blingsticks designs certainly reflect her passion for the glitz and glamour of costume, hair and make-up. The wedding range is one of her proudest achievements. Sticks can be covered in the same material as the bride’s dress and customers can request to have their names or photos on her creations too. Function is still fundamental and they are made as robust as possible – but mobility aid doesn’t have to come in dull shades of grey!

Dawn has had a lot of magazine coverage and is raising awareness of her work through the MS Trust and MS Society. She also donates Blingsticks to help raise money for various charities. Dawn believes in providing the highest level of customer service: “customer experience comes first and foremost as purchasing a Blingstick is a special, positive and up-lifting moment”. She is currently training someone to help out with the business so that she can fulfil her plans to branch out, but most importantly so that she can still manage to juggle it with her personal life. Dawn prays for good days; she has had several relapses, but she says she has to keep fighting not only for her own sake, but for her family. She is a carer for both of her parents. Her Dad has not been able to walk for 16 years now, and her Mum has been battling with breast cancer for 7 years, so they have become a very strong and supportive team. Stress is a massive trigger for MS, so Dawn maintains: “I’ve got to keep my chin up”. Her story reminds us that we can either “dig a hole and lie in it”, or get out there and make the most of it. Dawn describes her 7 year old daughter as her “little understudy” (-“more crystals end up on the cat than on a Blingstick!”), but she hopes Blingsticks will continue to grow, and ultimately continue to inspire and change lives. Dawn’s endeavour is simple: she wants to offer men and women a little extra help walking, and a little more confidence to “step out”. The Blingsticks mission is "to put a spring and a ‘BLING’ in your step so that you may walk around with pride, and a unique, cool, contemporary style of your own."

Check out www.blingsticks.com for more information!

You can also follow Blingsticks on Facebook

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Hi Rosie,I just want to say a big Thank You for featuring my story...I am very happy to share it with Bespoken and hope that it inspires others with similar illnesses to reach for their dreams and achieve their very best despite all odds xhttp://www.facebook.com/Blingsticks

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