A very special party for our youngsters!
It was party time at last for dozens of our children and young adults, who have been more affected than most by the pandemic.
Many of the youngsters who attended our Friends and Families Summer Party had to shield throughout lockdown and are only now starting to socialise and take part in activities again.
The party at the Mountbatten Centre was our first full get-together since Christmas 2019, and everyone was determined to make up for lost time. The children threw themselves into the activities that were laid on and took an active part in the sensory entertainment provided by the fabulous Rob Pudner of Entertainingly Different. Some also joined in with well-known folk musician and singer Jim Causley, whose sea shanties by the waterside went down a treat – as did the party food and ice cream van! Sadly, the wind conditions meant that planned trips on board the historic Tamar barge, Lynher, had to be rescheduled until a later date.
The summer party proved particularly special for one young carer, with a surprise award. Taylor Hardy, 12, was presented with a trophy for being the charity’s Fundraiser of the Year. Taylor, from Plympton, raised £4,469 with his 603-mile static bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Two of Taylor’s brothers, Danny, 13, and Sonny, 9, have disabilities, and Taylor and his younger brother Jack both help to care for them.
Mum Theresa said she felt “ridiculously proud” at Taylor’s achievement: “He told us he wanted to do something good during lockdown that everyone could remember as a positive memory. He hoped to raise £1,000 but he did that in the first week! To raise almost £4,500 was absolutely amazing.” All four boys take part in our activities and Theresa said: “They are happy to have some normality back in their lives. Taylor loves the activities that the charity organises in the Fun and Freedom Club, so it’s great to have those back again.”
Taylor said he had no idea he was going to get the award because Theresa and his dad Leigh kept it a secret. And he echoed Theresa’s words about being able to finally catch up with friends: “It was very hard being locked in for so many months, and not being able to socialise, so it’s really good to get out and meet other people again.”
Daisy was at the party with George, their younger sister Lexie and dad, Andy. He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic for them to be able to see all the familiar faces again and to socialise. And just doing activities that the whole family can do, it makes all the difference.”
Over 300 families have accessed our much-needed activities since we re-started them this summer. For some of our young people, the lack of interaction over the past 18 months has exacerbated existing medical conditions. Parents Bill and Edith Bayley said that lockdown was “horrendous” for their 23-year-old daughter Ferrin, who has the rare genetic disorder, 1p36: “Ferrin has always suffered from poor sleep, but she basically just stopped sleeping because there was nothing to stimulate her,” said Bill.
The family has used the charity’s services since it was set up almost 20 years ago and Edith said they were relieved that they could again take part in the social events: “Ferrin has had both her jabs and we are still being very careful about where we take her. She enjoys the activities, they are really good fun, and she loves parties, too.”Our CEO, Tim Tod, said: “It’s lovely to end the summer holidays by bringing everyone together again. It’s been a challenging year for many of our parents. But here, we have created a space where they feel comfortable and where they are among friends. There are some things that most people take for granted, but that’s not the case with many of our families. Today, they have felt happy to come along and have some fun – and that’s what the party was all about.”
Special guest for the afternoon was The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Mrs Terri Beer, and Consort Mr Colin Beer. The Lord Mayor chatted with families and paid tribute to Friends and Families for its “absolutely splendid” work. And she acknowledged that more needs to be done to make day-to-day life easier for those with additional needs: “I recognise that we are still not getting it right,” she said. “I am passionate about doing all we can for children with disabilities so that they are treated fairly, because currently, they are not being treated fairly.”
Chair of Trustees, Kay O’Shaughnessy, took the opportunity to raise several issues of concern with the Lord Mayor, including better access to places, improved play parks with sensory equipment, and a more joined-up process with a single point of contact as children with disabilities transition to adults.During the party, local children’s author David Lawrence Jones was announced as a new patron with Friends and Families. David has worked with us in the past – during National Storytelling Week, he filmed and produced seven read-aloud videos for us to share with the children each day during the week. His role as patron will be linked to his literacy events, raising awareness through day-to-day work in schools and networking within the ‘edutainment’ industry. David is also the Chancellor for Children’s University for Devon & Cornwall, based at Plymouth University.