ATHLETES and patients popped open the champagne to celebrate raising £20,000 to help people living with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Staff and service users packed into the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre (BMSTC) to raise a glass to the runners who raised the vital cash through events such as the Reading Half Marathon this year.

The centre provides physiotherapy and information as well as a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to treat and support patients with MS across Berkshire.

Claire Way, from Lower Earley, has been attending the centre since she was diagnosed with MS in 2007 and her husband Chris raised nearly £900 for it by running this year’s Reading Half Marathon.

Mrs Way, 49, said it was a vital resource for her and many other patients with MS because it provides a variety of services in one place.

She added: “It is good to have somewhere to come where everything is in one place and there are lots of people here to have a laugh with because we are all in the same boat and we can talk about MS together.”

Runner Patrick Wilson-Doyle, 31 from Newbury, also ran the Reading Half Marathon and raised £469 for the centre because his 58-year-old mum Sheila has been living with MS since 1980.

He said: “It was one of the best experiences of my life. I enjoyed every second of it because the Reading public were fantastic - they were supportive, enthusiastic and they encouraged you.”