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Gloucestershire’s Sam bares all to highlight condition

A new nude calendar for 2015 featuring six men and six women in the style of the famous WI Calendar Girls has been launched to help people learn more about a misunderstood condition.

And the brainchild behind the calendar, as well as Mr July, is Sam Merchant, from Yate, who has Ataxia.

Called ‘Ataxia Laid Bare’, the calendar highlights a different aspect of the condition each month. Sam, 33, has Friedreich’s ataxia, one of the many different types of progressive ataxia, which affects the brain and central nervous system. Ataxia affects 10,000 adults and around 2,500 children in the UK today.

“Some symptoms, such as heart disease with Friedreich’s ataxia are better-known than others,” says Sam. “Others, like hearing impairment, are less well known. The Ataxia Laid Bare calendar shows a different symptom each month, with different models choosing a symptom that personally affects them. Together, the pictures starkly illustrate the reality of ataxia.”

After coming up with the idea, Sam recruited the models and arranged a photo shoot with photographer Chris Brookes. “I originally came up with it when I saw similar calendars for other charities. I thought to myself, ‘why isn’t there one of these for ataxia?’ It would be a great fundraiser and awareness-raiser.

“Compared with some of the symptoms of ataxia, posing naked was nothing. Ataxia plays a major role in my life; it changes a lot of things for me. It affects where I live, the people I hang out with, what I do with my time; everything really. So I hope the nude calendar will raise awareness and a bit of money. I hope it will make a lot of people aware of the condition who didn’t know about it before.”

Sam lives independently at home with support of Stroud-based homecare provider DoCare. As well as buying the calendars for their offices, DoCare is helping to promote sales through its Facebook page.

DoCare General Manager Sue Mothershaw said: “Sam is a very popular client, and knowing him as we do we weren’t at all surprised at his ingenuity in launching this calendar, let alone his bravery in baring all.  DoCare is delighted to support Sam in this venture and help raise awareness of ataxia.”

Anyone wishing to support the campaign can buy Ataxia Laid Bare for £9.99 + p&p from www.ataxia.org.uk or by emailing fundraising@ataxia.org.uk or by calling 020 7582 1444.

All money raised from the calendar will go to helping Ataxia UK find a cure for ataxia and in providing help for people with ataxia in the UK.