Two left feet for a good cause – Cumbria charity funraiser for children with disabilities

If you live in Cumbria and fancy a valentines night out this Friday, why not boogie the night away with your nearest and dearest and raise money for a very worthwhile cause at the same time? As an added extra bonus, you’ll get to see my two left feet in action as I earn valentine brownie points with my wife and clomp around the dance area – entertainment doesn’t get much better than that!

Dance 4‘That’s Amore’, a valentine dance night will be held at the beautiful Whitehaven Golf Club on Friday 13th February 2015 starting at 7:30 p.m. and going on till midnight. Aimed for a ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ generation, this is an opportunity for Cumbrians to dress up posh and enjoy dancing to a 14-piece live Big Band followed by a ‘through the years’ disco playing music from the 40s through to the 70s. It’s an ideal time for the… ahem… older generation to boogie down memory lane with that special person in their lives.

But even if you’re not a local or not available this Friday, you can still contribute to a worthy charity called Give Us A Break 2010. Keep reading to find out why and how.

RaynorShine Centre – relief for families, fun for kids

Dawn

Founder Dawn Raynor (Source GUAB201 website)

Give Us A Break 2010 was formed five years ago with the intent of raising £500,000 to buy a plot of land and build a short-break Centre to support children with disabilities and their families in West Cumbria. I spoke to the founder, Dawn Raynor, and asked her why the area needs such a centre.

“I began the campaign after the Seacroft Centre in St Bees was closed down. We organised a protest to prevent Seacroft from going but couldn’t stop it in the end. We were promised a ‘stepping stone’ and that the council would build a new centre but it didn’t happen.”

Dawn, a working hairdresser who has two twin boys who suffer from Tuberous Sclerosis, a rare genetic disorder that causes intractable epilepsy, has first-hand knowledge of how necessary is a place for disabled children to play.

 

“As my kids got bigger it got harder to take them to play parks. I would get looks from other parents as my two got larger and, in the end, I gave up taking them anywhere to play.”

Dawn is a typical Cumbrian and speaks bluntly about things she’s passionate about. There’s no doubting she’s upset at the situation for children with disabilities in Cumbria. Despite repeated attempts to acquire council funding, Dawn’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears. She told me of the many ‘gaps’ in the system which are letting families down.

“They’re not gaps, they’re bloody canyons!” she told me. “There’s around 2,500 kids with Special Educational Needs in Cumbria but only one specialist school, Mayfield School, which can support them.” Mayfield though can only hold around 150 children and has no after-school clubs. In fact none of the handful of short break facilities in Cumbria offer any kind of after-school activity for disabled kids except for Sedbergh Road Children’s Home in Kendal – more than 1 1/2 hours driving distance from the Whitehaven area.

Dawn’s solution is to build the RaynorShine Centre which will provide day, after-school and overnight activities for parents and their disabled children to come, take rest and enjoy playing.

Vanessa Hall, one of the charity’s directors told me of the charity’s ethos.

“Because every child deserves to have fun,” she said. “We want a place where disabled children can play outdoors without being frowned upon by other parents, where they can take part in music and art activities and which is easy to get to and worth it for the families.”

Putting the ‘fun’ into ‘fundraising’

Vanessa told me that, so far, Give Us A Break 2010 has raised around £200,000 which is a great achievement but there’s still a lot of work to do. Vanessa’s determination and enthusiasm for the charity was obvious as I spoke to her. Her own involvement with the charity was not an easy journey.

Chris Hall, Dawn Raynor and Vanessa Hall (Source GUAB2010 Facebook page)

In 2011 her husband, Chris, was given two months to live after developing sinus cancer.

“The tumour was the size of your fist,” Vanessa said, “but we chose to fight it. After 18 months of aggressive chemo and radiotherapy Chris went into complete remission.”

It’s a wonderfully uplifting story and the Halls didn’t take this gift of a second life for granted. Chris had been Dawn Raynor’s doctor and so knew her and her boys well. After he retired from work, following the cancer, she asked him if he would get involved with the charity and Chris jumped at the chance. Vanessa was swift to join him.

Dance 5Since then, Give Us A Break 2010 has put on several charity events and last year held their own ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ event in St Bees. I wondered why and asked Vanessa.

“It was an idea which grew out of the popularity of the TV competition. There was lots of interest and local dance teachers gave their time to teach and judge contestants.”

Although this Friday isn’t a competition Give Us A Break 2010 intend to hold another dance competition in July. This Friday though is all about fun. Which is just as well – I don’t normally go anywhere near dance events because I have two left feet and neither is capable of dancing a step!

I asked both Dawn and Vanessa what I could expect.Dance 10

“I promise you you’ll have a fantastic time watching others and the atmosphere will be great!” Dawn encouraged me.

“Don’t worry,” Vanessa said with a twinkle in her eye, “I’ve got two left feet as well! It will be fun for all abilities.”

So I will be taking my good lady on Friday and I hope I’ll see some of you there too. Come and have a laugh – at my attempts if nothing else! – and enjoy a great night out. You can buy tickets from the website or reserve them to pick up on the door.  I would recommend getting them soon though. Last week more than 60% of the tickets had already sold. If you’re local you can buy tickets from several places including from Dawn herself (details at the website below).

If you can’t make it (what do you mean you live in America? That’s no excuse!) then do please check out the website and Facebook links below and consider donating. There’s a number of ways to give – even without paying a penny!

Help Dawn, Vanessa and many other volunteers working tirelessly to make this much needed dream come true.

All photos (except where indicated) used with permission and thanks to Keith Robinson Photography – just one of the many local businesses which support the charity. Photos taken from last year’s dancing competition.

WebsiteGive Us A Break 2010

Facebook: Give Us a Break 2010

Twitter: @GUAB2010 – go to their Twitter page here.

Reserve tickets or find out other ways to buy them here.

About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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