A View from the Chair – Spring 2014
Hello again, well spring is in the air, the trees and flowers are blossoming, young birds fill the trees, lambs can be seen in the fields, the mornings and evenings are lighter and the days longer. Even our narrow-boat ‘The Wizard’ got a spring spruce up, thanks to a grant from the Cheshire Community Foundation.
Since the last time I posted ‘a view from the chair’ lots has happened at WDP, some good and some not so good, ok I hear you saying, but that’s life Dave! The highlights include the announcement that ‘Your Housing Group’ pledged their continuing support as principal sponsor for this year’s Disability Awareness Day, our finance team confirmed that record takings were achieved across most areas of our social enterprise ‘The Disability Trading Company’, plus the combined with the finances of WDP we achieved a combined turnover of nearly £1.5million for 2013/14, but more importantly against a backdrop of ongoing financial uncertainty we managed to maintain most of our services and we saw an increase in the numbers of disabled people using our services.
Disability Awareness Day
As well as Your Housing Group, we also managed to sign up most of last year’s supporters and we added two more, but with increased costs things were looking really tight until a friend of WDP, current Mayor of Warrington Councillor Peter Carey stepped in to organise a Summer Ball with all profits going to make up the gap in funding, and once again, ‘the show will go on’. Given the current financial climate, I think it is amazing how generous everyone has been, and it is a testament to all of our supporters including our good friend David Mowat MP who recently dropped off a very welcome donation towards this year’s event.
Well plans are now being finalised for what should be another great event. We have several new members on the DAD Management Group, applications for exhibitor stands are up on the same time last year including nearly 40 newbies, two will be displaying products not seen at DAD before, Dave Williams has been busy setting up the signage on roundabouts across Warrington, and there were some new faces at last week’s Stewards Meeting. I am pleased to announce that we have agreed a deal which sees Tom Dowling and his team from ‘All Together Now’ as our Media Partner for DAD 2014. Yesterday we signed off the programme for DAD Week; it certainly took some juggling trying to accommodate everyone’s requests for space. We have added two fantastic events to our evening sessions; the famous Wingates Brass Band will be performing our ‘Concert in the Park’ and international renowned evangelist Godfrey Birtill will be performing in our ‘Evening of Celebration’. Check out all events http://www.disabilityawarenessday.org.uk/show/week.shtml
Finally, national and international interest in DAD continues to grow, we have exchanged communications with organisations in Salford, Blackpool, London, Slough, India, Cameroon, Germany, Kenya, Nigeria and Gibraltar. I hope to see you there on Sunday 13th July.
Fundraising and Community Engagement
On the back of a fantastic Christmas fundraising programme that topped £13,000 we started the year with our usual Quiz Nights and weekend tombola’s, one of the highlights was a £1,500 donation from Alan Ainsworth and his colleagues from Warrington Rotary that will support some of the refurbishments in our Café which is becoming increasingly popular, and now includes a couple of luncheon clubs.
In February I joined nineteen other swimmers for the ‘Big Splash’, the first of this year’s ‘Going the Extra Mile’ events which raised nearly £2,000. The day was like a Thompson family trip to the swimming pool, with grandchildren Jamie, Ellie and Chloe, plus Gavin, Caroline and Tommy also taking part.
During March we met WDP Patron Peter Ives and his colleagues from Birchwood Lions several times, I was delighted to accept their invitation to be the guest speaker at their Charter Night and to accept their kind donation of £150. Peter and other members supported our Quiz Night and it was good to meet them again in Cumbria when I was guest speaker at the Lions North West District Convention.
A number of Mega Easter Tombola’s formed part of the fundraising calendar during April, but planning for the months ahead took up most of our time. The unusually dry weather provided the opportunity to repaint our Wizard narrow-boat, and it was good to hear from Captain Phil that last year’s promotional drive for the Wizard has resulted in increased bookings for 2014, up 300% on this time last year.
A talk by Tom, Naomi and Janis to pupils at Evelyn Street School assembly helped raise awareness of disability and continued the partnership originally forged by Dave Connor. The talk also resulted in an unexpected donation from Zoe, a pupil at the school who was so inspired by our work that she decided to donate her personal savings of £47 to WDP. Janis said, to witness such a generous gesture from such a young girl was really heart-warming, and I have to agree.
Early May has seen a fantastic team effort from WDP when this year’s ‘Walk in the Park’ attracted over 120 walkers and wheelchair pushers, most raised funds for their own good causes, but an inspirational effort from our Disability Officer Tom Coleridge raised over £800 of the £2,500 raised for WDP from the event. Tom actually completed the 5k course through Sankey Valley Park, not once but twice. Special thanks for the support provided by Aldi, Santander, Costco and the West Area Board, and to Team WDP and everyone who took part in the walk including our good friend Mayor of Warrington Councillor Peter Carey.
The weekend after the walk Tommy led a team of over 20 Team WDP runners competing in what turned out to be one of the hottest Manchester 10k Run. Pam and I joined the other dozen or so members of Team WDP who were on hand to offer our verbal support along the route. As the last member of our team went past it was back in the car and back to Warrington to join Dave, Janis, Brun and John who were already at Walton Gardens staffing our WDP stand at the Mayors Tea Party in the Park which turned out to be another fantastic event. The day also finished on a high; as we got back home at 5pm just in time for the kick off Warrington Wolves game against local rivals St Helens in the closing game of this year’s Magic Weekend at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. Against all odds, Wolves finished 41 to 24 winners. Tony Smith really does have a ‘Barmy Army’ of players! Each week this season we’re not sure which team will turn up, one week we get well beaten by bottom of Super League, the next we beat the team at the top! At the end of May Team WDP will be out in numbers for a Charity Bucket Collection when the Wolves host current top of the league Leeds Rhinos, fingers crossed the lads can do it again.
Return to the Red Sea
Mid-March Pam and I joined our best friends Dave and Janis in a trip back to Egypt from some well-earned Sun, Sea, Shandy (ok beer, but it doesn’t start with an ‘s’) and Scuba Diving. On arrival at Sharm el Sheikh Airport we were met, as expected by our good friend Musty, but it was clear to see that all was not well. Musty explained that the growing pressure due to low bookings during the past year had finally been too much and he had resigned earlier that day, but in respect of our friendship he had arranged to be our personal guide for this holiday.
We were all amazed at the transformation that had taken place to the hotel pools and restaurants since we were last there only 5 months ago. The fantastic facilities were further complimented by the usually committed staff, but this time the Animation Team were even better than ever, and had us entertained from morning till night. We even won one of the afternoon poolside Quizzes, that said we also came last twice.
The weather was fantastic, averaging in the low 30’s, thank goodness the worst rainstorms recorded in Egypt for over a decade had passed by the time we arrived, but the damage it caused was evident everywhere we went. The sea temperatures was slightly down on our past experiences, but still averaged 22c, back in the UK the temperature at Caperwray was 6c, erm, let me think, where would I rather have been?
Dave and I managed to fit in 13 dives, thankfully we had previously decided on no early morning starts, that said 7.30am still felt very early, especially as we could witness the sun rising. Three dives standout as being the most memorable from this trip. The first was at Woodhouse Reef, one of four reefs that are located near Tiran Island. It was memorable because of the extremely strong left to right current that pushed us along at a rapid pace, faster that I had ever experienced before in over 110 dives. Once we got down to 28 metres we caught current and it felt like a ride on a roller coaster flying past an abundance of colourful fish, great coral and unusual fauna, with no chance of stopping to take photographs which was a pity as Dave was trying out his new Go Pro Micro Camera. As we hit the far side of the reef and attempted to swim out of the current we got caught in a number of cross currents, left, right, up and down, it was absolutely exhilarating, and reminded us of how powerful the sea really is.
A few days later we headed out to Ras Mohamed National Park and our hopes were raised about seeing our first White Tipped Oceanic Shark. Musty explained it had been seen every morning for the past few weeks at Ras Zatar, a reef we had dived several times during the past couple of years. As we arrived at the reef my heart was beating harder than ever, my mouth was dry with a tinge of nervousness and excitement. Dave and I were ushered to the back of the boat by Musty, he said if we were to see the shark we needed to get into the water first. As the boats captain sounded the horn the three of us entered the water and we headed down as quickly as possible. Once again we swam past great coral and fauna, together with some fantastic fish including Blue Spotted Ray’s, a huge Napoleon Wrasse, a Moray Eel, Lion Fish and dozens of colourful Parrot and Trigger Fish. With the end of the reef in clear sight, the anticipation was building, could this be the day for our first sighting of a shark in its natural habitat, it was then that Musty spotted a rare Torpedo Ray and Dave and I focussed our cameras, capturing some fantastic footage, but whilst we were captivated by the Ray we hadn’t noticed a second group of divers from our boat had swam past us! They reached the end of the reef 30 seconds or so before us, just in time to see the Shark, and by the time we got there, it has swam away into the blue. I must admit I didn’t believe them until I saw one of the divers photos when we got back to the boat…………. One day, maybe next time. Until it is our time we will have to make do with Blue Planet Aquarium.
The third and probably the most memorable dive was our last of this trip, at Temple, another great reef located within the Ras Mohamed National Park. The dive started great and got better and better, a huge shoal of Banner Fish circled us for several minutes providing some great photo opportunities, next there was a shoal of Angle Fish, a giant Moray, Clown Fish, Puffer Fish and several Blue Spotted Ray’s followed by a couple of cave and archway swims. As I was capturing a great close-up shot of a Lion Fish Musty pointed out a pair of Lion Fish were inches away from my arm, and that was too close. As I swam round the pinnacle of coral I looked up to the sheer wall to my left and saw another three Lion Fish, as I looked up there were another six, then four more and then another five. Yes eighteen Lion Fish together within a 6m by 6m area, even Musty had never seen some many together in one place, but that wasn’t it. In between them was another Torpedo Fish and this one wasn’t camera shy.
As we arrived back on the boat Dave and I thanked Musty for another memorable day, one that he said he will never forget, eighteen Lion Fish...interestingly, when we got back to the hotel, Pam and Janis didn’t share in our excitement, they just don’t understand what it’s like being so closed to nature. I certainly feel it is amazing, the colours, the numbers of fish, the feeling it leaves one with is something words cannot describe. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to dive.
During the past twenty years I have been involved with a number of high profile disability awareness campaigns. During the first two years of presenting awareness sessions to health and social care staff and students and school children I used several videos produced by the national cerebral palsy charity Scope. Later I used videos and DVD’s produced by the Disability Rights Commission, the best being ‘Talk’ ‘Action Speak Louder than Words’ a well thought through script that featured a young able bodied man who fell asleep and woke in a world when everything was built around the needs of disabled people.
Last week I was sent a link to Scope’s website, in particular the section on their ‘Awkward at Work’ which aims to end the embarrassing moments including the first impressions, should I or shouldn’t I offer help, the office parties and is the restaurant accessible, team-building exercises could Susan get involved – we’ve all been there. The website offers tips on avoiding the nervous moments, and promotes the ethos that you can’t go far wrong if you see the person, not their impairment. Check it out www.scope.org.uk/awkward/work
Whilst on the subject of awareness raising campaigns, congratulations to my colleagues in the Communications Department at 5 Boroughs, their ‘Stamp-out Stigma (against mental health) Campaign’ has attracted over 108,000 supporters and produced several awareness packs for use in schools and for employers. The national ‘Time to Change’ is also still going strong, and has recently released a number of new DVD clips that highlight talking about mental health. Check it out www.stampoutstigma.co.uk/
Another great initiative tackling stigma about mental health is ‘State of Mind’. The State of Mind programme, established in 2011 aims to improve mental health, wellbeing and working life of rugby league players and communities. Led by health care professionals and ex-super league players they want to get people talking about it. They deliver comprehensive educational sessions at no cost throughout the UK in super league, championship and amateur clubs as well as colleges and community groups, aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues within sport.
Last week a State of Mind team including ex-Great Britain international and St Helens Paul Sculthorpe, Ex-Wales and Warrington Wolves Captain Lee Briers, Ex-Wakefield Wildcats Jimmy Gittins and one of my work colleagues Dr Phil Cooper completed an epic walk from Lands End to John O Groats in 12 days. It was good to meet up with the lads as they stopped off outside the Halliwell Jones Stadium as they passed through Warrington.
Love is in the air for two WDP supporters, Naomi and Penny. Both are putting in place their final wedding plans. First to the alter is Penny, administrator of the WDP and DAD websites, and daughter of WDP Treasurer Sue is marrying Dave in Halton and a couple of weeks later Naomi, WDP’s first Young Ambassador and currently employed as a senior administrator is marrying Nathan at Walton Gardens. On behalf of everyone at Team WDP, good luck and best wishes to you all.
On a Personal Note
Having children really reminds one how quickly life goes by, just ask Penny’s mum Sue and Naomi’s dad Dave and mum Christine, I bet they all remember their daughters first steps and now they are grown up and getting married. Last weekend when our three grandchildren Jamie 12, Ellie 8 and Chloe 4 were together at our house. I watched them playing together and realised just how quickly they are all growing up, each one with their unique personalities, Jamie talking about his love for sports, his knowledge for statistics is just incredible. Ellie was discussing her love for dance and music, strutting around the garden, showing off her latest moves, and Chloe, well what can I say, 4 going on 24, swagger and attitude, rounded off with a wicked smile that can get anything she wants from her dad. When they all left, Pam and I looked at each other and smiled as silence descended on our house.
Thinking about family, those of you who know me well will have heard me refer to WDP as my extended family, and whilst thinking about my grandchildren reminded me again about the work we are doing in terms of succession planning for WDP, in particular two young disabled people, Tom and Naomi. I am really pleased that my fellow trustees are as committed as I am about developing a new Disability Information and Advice Team around them, with the support of Brun, WDP’s Partnerships Manager who has a wealth of experience and knowledge that she has learned during over two decades of involvement with WDP and our predecessor organisations.
Finally, Looking Ahead to the Summer
It’s less than 50 days to go to Disability Awareness Day and you can feel the excitement building at WDP. I have been discussing plans for this year’s Going the Extra Mile Scuba Challenge with Dave Williams, John Munslow and Dave Molyneux, and it’s clear to see that by adding the Twin Deep Dives at Caperwray and Eccleston Delph has really caught everyone’s imagination. Yes, as well as finishing the day with our 64 length ‘mile scuba challenge’. Starting around mid-day we will be completing an 18m dive at Capernwray Lancashire, then drive to Eccleston Delph in Wigan for a second 18m dive, before heading back to Warrington for the 64 length pool dive. Can’t wait, at least Dave and I have arranged our second trip of the year to Egypt to recuperate, and take in a few dives in the Red Sea!
Until next time, thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.
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